Biden Agrees to Narrow Eligibility for Stimulus Payments

Here’s what you need to know: If Republican senators are united in opposition to President Biden’s stimulus bill, the chamber’s Democrats will need to be united in order to pass it.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times President Biden has signed off on a Democratic plan to place stricter income caps on the next round of stimulus payments, a crucial concession to moderates whose votes he needs to push through his $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package. The proposal would disqualify individuals earning more than $80,000 — and households whose incomes exceed $160,000 — from receiving stimulus checks of up to $1,400, lowering the income caps by $20,000 from the last round of direct payments and from the version of the aid plan passed over the weekend by the House. The tentative agreement was detailed on Wednesday by a Democrat familiar with the details, who disclosed them on condition of anonymity. It was under discussion as Democratic leaders pressed to find the 50 votes they will need to push through the stimulus measure in the face of unified Republican opposition. Like the House bill, the proposal under discussion would send $1,400 checks to people earning up to $75,000 and households earning up to $150,000, with those earning more receiving smaller payments. But the Senate proposal would end the checks altogether for those making $80,000 or couples earning $160,000, while the House measure had a higher cap of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for households. Mr. Biden had previously signaled that the income levels were negotiable, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that he had prioritized preserving the $75,000 limit for those receiving the full $1,400 stimulus payment. “He is certainly familiar with the journey that it takes from a proposal to a bill being signed,” Ms. Psaki said. “He has also been open from the beginning for that being more targeted.” The change in the upper limit being discussed in the Senate, if adopted, would mean that some people who got a check during the Trump administration would not get one under Mr. Biden. Nearly 9 million households that received at least some amount of payment in the last round of stimulus checks authorized in December would not receive any at all this time, according to calculations by Kyle Pomerleau, a tax modeling specialist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. It would shave $15 billion to $20 billion off the cost of the bill, Mr. Pomerleau estimated. The private haggling between over the details of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan underscored the challenge of steering it through the evenly divided Senate, where Democratic leaders cannot afford a single defection. With unemployment benefits set to begin lapsing on March 14, Senate Democrats are working to pass the legislation by the weekend, with the first votes to advance it coming as early as Wednesday. Liberal lawmakers are frustrated over the decision to drop a minimum-wage increase from the package, after a key Senate official ruled it out of bounds and moderates in the chamber said they would not support it. The centrists, who spoke privately with Mr. Biden earlier this week, have also been pushing to narrow other elements of the stimulus plan, including reducing a $400 weekly federal unemployment payment in the measure to $300 a week, the level currently being provided. Senate Democrats appear to have rejected that effort, agreeing to the House-passed proposal to increase the benefit and extend it through the end of August Mr. Biden sought to rally Democratic senators around the package on Tuesday, joining their weekly lunchtime meeting by phone and urging them to stick together to reject attempts by Republicans to inject changes when the Senate considers the bill that could kill its chances of passage. Listen to ‘The Daily’: The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, we look at the partisan debate that has erupted around it. transcript Back to The Daily bars 0:00/24:52 -24:52 transcript Listen to ‘The Daily’: The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Stella Tan and Daniel Guillemette; edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Corey Schreppel. As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, we look at the partisan debate that has erupted around it. michael barbaro From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.” [music] Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, a massive stimulus package designed to end the pandemic and rescue the economy. Today: As the package moves to the Senate, I spoke with my colleague, Jim Tankersley, about what’s actually in it and the partisan debate that has erupted over its size and ambition. It’s Tuesday, March 2. Hey, Jim. jim tankersley

Biden Agrees to Narrow Eligibility for Stimulus Payments
Here’s what you need to know: If Republican senators are united in opposition to President Biden’s stimulus bill, the chamber’s Democrats will need to be united in order to pass it.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times President Biden has signed off on a Democratic plan to place stricter income caps on the next round of stimulus payments, a crucial concession to moderates whose votes he needs to push through his $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package. The proposal would disqualify individuals earning more than $80,000 — and households whose incomes exceed $160,000 — from receiving stimulus checks of up to $1,400, lowering the income caps by $20,000 from the last round of direct payments and from the version of the aid plan passed over the weekend by the House. The tentative agreement was detailed on Wednesday by a Democrat familiar with the details, who disclosed them on condition of anonymity. It was under discussion as Democratic leaders pressed to find the 50 votes they will need to push through the stimulus measure in the face of unified Republican opposition. Like the House bill, the proposal under discussion would send $1,400 checks to people earning up to $75,000 and households earning up to $150,000, with those earning more receiving smaller payments. But the Senate proposal would end the checks altogether for those making $80,000 or couples earning $160,000, while the House measure had a higher cap of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for households. Mr. Biden had previously signaled that the income levels were negotiable, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that he had prioritized preserving the $75,000 limit for those receiving the full $1,400 stimulus payment. “He is certainly familiar with the journey that it takes from a proposal to a bill being signed,” Ms. Psaki said. “He has also been open from the beginning for that being more targeted.” The change in the upper limit being discussed in the Senate, if adopted, would mean that some people who got a check during the Trump administration would not get one under Mr. Biden. Nearly 9 million households that received at least some amount of payment in the last round of stimulus checks authorized in December would not receive any at all this time, according to calculations by Kyle Pomerleau, a tax modeling specialist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. It would shave $15 billion to $20 billion off the cost of the bill, Mr. Pomerleau estimated. The private haggling between over the details of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan underscored the challenge of steering it through the evenly divided Senate, where Democratic leaders cannot afford a single defection. With unemployment benefits set to begin lapsing on March 14, Senate Democrats are working to pass the legislation by the weekend, with the first votes to advance it coming as early as Wednesday. Liberal lawmakers are frustrated over the decision to drop a minimum-wage increase from the package, after a key Senate official ruled it out of bounds and moderates in the chamber said they would not support it. The centrists, who spoke privately with Mr. Biden earlier this week, have also been pushing to narrow other elements of the stimulus plan, including reducing a $400 weekly federal unemployment payment in the measure to $300 a week, the level currently being provided. Senate Democrats appear to have rejected that effort, agreeing to the House-passed proposal to increase the benefit and extend it through the end of August Mr. Biden sought to rally Democratic senators around the package on Tuesday, joining their weekly lunchtime meeting by phone and urging them to stick together to reject attempts by Republicans to inject changes when the Senate considers the bill that could kill its chances of passage. Listen to ‘The Daily’: The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, we look at the partisan debate that has erupted around it. transcript Back to The Daily bars 0:00/24:52 -24:52 transcript Listen to ‘The Daily’: The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Stella Tan and Daniel Guillemette; edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Corey Schreppel. As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, we look at the partisan debate that has erupted around it. michael barbaro From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.” [music] Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s first major piece of legislation, a massive stimulus package designed to end the pandemic and rescue the economy. Today: As the package moves to the Senate, I spoke with my colleague, Jim Tankersley, about what’s actually in it and the partisan debate that has erupted over its size and ambition. It’s Tuesday, March 2. Hey, Jim. jim tankersley Sir. How are you? michael barbaro I’m well. Congratulations on your new assignment to the White House beat. jim tankersley Thank you. It’s exciting. It’s a little crazy. michael barbaro It’s interesting, you’re now a White House reporter who happens to be an economic specialist. jim tankersley Yes. michael barbaro So are you kind of like the economic White House reporter? Or that’s an oversimplification? jim tankersley I think it’s— yeah, I think that that is very much true. I am basically doing my old job, but in the White House, but then, also some new things in the White House. michael barbaro That sounds like Joe Biden saying, I’m doing a new job— jim tankersley Right. michael barbaro —but in the White House. jim tankersley I’ve never been in the personal residence before, Michael. But I will be now. michael barbaro Right, same Jim, new title. Very exciting. jim tankersley Right. michael barbaro Well, keep us posted on that. jim tankersley I will. michael barbaro So, Jim, we are here to talk about a major new stimulus package crafted by the Biden administration, passed by the House of Representatives that is about to be voted on by the Senate. But I think we should start by situating ourselves in the history of stimulus packages passed by Congress since the beginning of the pandemic. And I believe that this would be major stimulus package number three, correct? jim tankersley Yes. So the first plan was a fairly quick reaction by the end of March last year in 2020 as the pandemic was spreading. And that provided more than $2 trillion worth of assistance. It was a huge Band-Aid to the economy. The second one didn’t come for quite some time after that. Didn’t come till December, when Democrats, who were ascendant, knowing Joe Biden had won the White House, and Republicans came together on a $900 billion packages to extend some additional aid to the unemployed, try to help people continue through the pandemic. And then here, the third package— the Biden administration comes along asking for what the administration hopes will be one last dose of help. michael barbaro OK, and in terms of size and scale, how does this package number three stack up against the first two? You said that the first package was $2 trillion and the second was nearly a trillion. jim tankersley Well, the first package was the largest economic stimulus legislation in American history. And this is almost as big. This would be $1.9 trillion. michael barbaro So it’s a lot of money. jim tankersley It’s a lot of money. michael barbaro And that raises the question, what exactly is inside of it? What do you get for $1.9 trillion? jim tankersley You get several things. First, you get a bunch of things that you might consider classic stimulus things we’ve seen in stimulus bills before, ways the government is sending money to people to try to help them buy things. That is headlined by direct checks to Americans. $1,400 per person and per child for people who earn up to $75,000 a year. michael barbaro So if you’re a family of four, that’s $1,400 for four individual people? jim tankersley Yeah. If you’re a family of four, and your family earns less than $150,000 a year total, you’re looking at $5,600 in checks. michael barbaro Right. jim tankersley You get aid to state and local governments, who have had to lay off a lot of workers. And now, with federal money, could rehire those workers and avoid future layoffs. You also get more money for the unemployed, longer unemployment benefits, and more money for food stamps and rental assistance, sort of classic stimulus. michael barbaro Right, it literally stimulates the economy. jim tankersley It stimulates demand to stimulate the economy. You also have money meant to unlock parts of the economy that currently aren’t working the way they should be. So there’s money for vaccines and testing, which is meant to fight the virus so that you can give people confidence to return to work and to go back out and shop again. You have money to reopen schools. And there’s money for child care too, so that parents who have been forced to stay home with their children and not be able to work can go back to work and earn money and get the economy going that way. michael barbaro So this is non-traditional stimulus, but stimulus uniquely suited to a pandemic recession? jim tankersley Yeah, absolutely. This is sort of the money that you spend to get this particular economy in this pandemic moment moving again. And then, a last group of provisions in the bill are things that Democrats have wanted and been working for, for a long time that they think would be particularly helpful in this moment in the recovery. So that includes a major expansion of some tax credits meant to fight child poverty for a year, to help kids not go hungry or go homeless. It also includes an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour federally by 2025, which is something progressives have been pushing for years and Democrats say would help to give workers a raise right now when so many workers are struggling with lost hours and other problems in this recession and recovery that have disproportionately hurt low-wage workers. michael barbaro Got it. So these would be long-term structural changes to the American economy in the mold of Democrats and progressives? jim tankersley Yes, that’s what they’re looking for here. michael barbaro So given the amount of ground that this package covers and its scale, what is the Biden administration’s case for it? What is their argument and best-case scenario for passing this? jim tankersley Their argument, from the president, from the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, all the way on down to White House economic aides is that it’s much better to go really big right now in this moment, than to go too small. archived recording (joe biden) We’ve been here before, when this nation hit the Great Recession that Barack and I inherited in 2009, I was asked— jim tankersley When he was Vice President, Joe Biden shepherded a stimulus bill in 2009. archived recording (joe biden) It was a big recovery package, roughly $800 billion. I did everything I could to get it passed, including getting three Republicans to change their votes and vote for it. But it wasn’t enough. jim tankersley It was too small. It didn’t meet all the needs of the economy. They do not want to make that mistake again. They’d rather have too much than too little, because the lesson they learned from 2009 is it’s hard to come back one more time once you’ve gotten your first big bill as a new president. michael barbaro So they’re being quite explicit about this. They are OK with the idea that this might be too big? That is fine with them? jim tankersley Yes, what they say over and over and over is the risk of going too small is much larger than the risk of going too big. And they would much rather take that risk that this ends up being too much money than it’s not enough. michael barbaro So, Jim, taken together, what would these provisions mean for a low-income family in the United States with children? jim tankersley It would mean a lot. It would be thousands of dollars per family. So you would get money from the direct checks. If you are out of work, you’d get more money for unemployment insurance. And you would get this expanded child tax credit, which is up to $3,600 for the year for kids under 6, and $3,000 per year for kids under 18. Columbia University estimates that if all of this was passed, it would cut child poverty in half in the United States. michael barbaro And that would be a very meaningful accomplishment? jim tankersley Yeah. michael barbaro And, Jim, from the start when this package was announced, it’s been pretty clear that congressional Democrats have welcomed it more or less. Is that right? jim tankersley Democrats have remained really unified over sort of the overall scope of the bill. They’ve had some disagreements here or there over individual provisions. Most notably, they changed who exactly was eligible to get those direct payments. And they’ve had a big debate between the progressives and the moderates in the party over the minimum wage and whether it should be raised to $15 an hour as part of the bill. But for the most part, they’ve just hung tough. They’ve hung together, and they said Joe Biden wants a big bill. We should give him a big bill. And we should be pretty deferential to how he wants to spend the money within that bill. michael barbaro Now, Republicans, not so much. jim tankersley No, Republicans do not think that the economy needs $1.9 trillion in stimulus right now. And they in fact, went to negotiate with Joe Biden— a group of Republican senators, 10 of them— went to negotiate with him shortly after he became president. And they brought their own proposal. And it was $600 billion. michael barbaro Hmm, let’s talk about that number, because $600 billion is not just smaller. It is a third as big. I mean, it’s much, much smaller. jim tankersley Yeah, the Republicans had a real idea that Biden would negotiate with them. He made an opening bid. They were going to make an opening bid. michael barbaro You meet in the middle. jim tankersley It was just— a start. Maybe they meet in the middle. Maybe not. But that was their expectation. Joe Biden’s called for unity. We’re going to make a bid and go negotiate this dollar figure down significantly. michael barbaro And? jim tankersley That didn’t happen. The Biden administration basically said, we are willing to negotiate in the realm of what we think is necessary, which is basically pretty close to $1.9 trillion. And so that left them very far apart. michael barbaro Right. And my sense is that Democrats and the president have basically said, thank you very much for your $600 billion proposal. We really like our $1.9 trillion proposal. And we are going to go it on our own? jim tankersley Yeah. And usually, that would be kind of fatal for a bill. You need 60 votes in the Senate to pass almost anything, because of the filibuster. But in this case, Democrats are employing kind of a special workaround called Budget Reconciliation. It’s the same process used to pass the Tax Cuts under President Trump in 2017. And essentially, what it does is it allows certain bills that deal with taxes and spending to pass with just 51 votes. In this case for the Democrats, all 50 Democrats in the chamber plus the Vice President, Kamala Harris breaking the tie. michael barbaro Got it. And they think they can pull that off. But of course, that would mean not having any Republican support for this giant stimulus package? jim tankersley Right, they could do it without any Republicans, if every single Democrat hangs together. michael barbaro Jim, this is a pretty historic thing to pass on a party line vote, $1.9 trillion in economic stimulus. But that’s the plan. jim tankersley That appears to be the plan. I mean, there is still some hope the Democrats have that a few Republicans might join. But this is really a Democrats are going to do it their way. They’re going to do it with their votes. And they are inviting Republicans to get on board. [music] michael barbaro We’ll be right back. So, Jim, Republicans are not really influencing the course of this giant stimulus package. But it feels worth examining their critiques, which are many and are vocal. So where should we start with the Republican objections? archived recording It’s hard to cover all the ground of how bad this bill is. jim tankersley I think we should start with the sort of political and policy critiques that they have. archived recording A lot within this bill is a waste or a wish list from the progressives. jim tankersley The idea that this is a liberal wish list with way too much money in it that the economy doesn’t need and that is not targeted to the needs of the recovery right now, but instead, to just other priorities that Democrats have been wanting to push for a long time. archived recording Just the other day, President Biden challenged Republicans to show him the waste. What would you cut, President Biden said. How much time do you have, Mr. President? jim tankersley For example, they say you know, Democrats have been wanting to raise the minimum wage for a long time. And here they are, doing it at a time when Republicans warn it’ll cost jobs. They also say the Democrats are just trying to bail out blue states, who have higher tax rates by giving them state and local aid. And they say things like, even these expanded child tax credits are just a thing Democrats have been pushing for a long time to fight poverty. But some Republicans call it welfare and say that it doesn’t belong in this sort of a bill. michael barbaro So to summarize, the Republican critique of these provisions is that they’re not required in an emergency and that really, they’re just Democratic priorities that could be debated and passed outside of an emergency stimulus package and should be passed outside of an emergency stimulus package? jim tankersley I think they would say that they shouldn’t be passed at all. But yes, they are saying the Democrats should not put a bunch of these provisions into an emergency stimulus package. michael barbaro And, Jim, from your reporting, is that a fair critique? jim tankersley There are certainly some areas where you can make a very fair argument that Democrats are targeting things to longstanding priorities. Again, the minimum wage is a great example. But even in some of the education spending, the Congressional Budget Office assesses the bill. It’s like the scorekeeper in Congress for where money is going to go. And for example, they say a lot of the money for schools is not going to be spent likely over the next year to get schools reopened. It might be used for teacher salaries for years to come, which Republicans are calling a payout to teachers unions. And the next critique is the economic one. The Republicans saying the economics of this bill are way off. michael barbaro And what do they mean by that? jim tankersley Well, they mean, first off that it spends more money than the economy needs right now to get back on its feet, or to get back to where it was before the pandemic hit. But also, there’s a risk to spending too much money. And that risk is, you could cause inflation to go kind of wild across the economy. And that’s going to cause prices to rise across the economy very quickly, which is bad. michael barbaro OK, and economics 101, Jim how does putting too much money into the economy affect prices and make them go up? jim tankersley If you have a set number of things being sold in the economy, goods and services, and suddenly a lot more money to buy those goods and services, then there’s only so many things to go around. And so people start bidding against each other. And the price of them goes up. There’s only three hamburgers and there are 10 of us. And we all get a million dollar and we’re hungry. Suddenly, the price of a hamburger goes way up, because we each want to eat. michael barbaro This will heretofore be known as the Jim Tankersley hamburger inflation lesson. jim tankersley I love it. Yes. michael barbaro Is that, Jim, a legitimate concern that this bill would cause inflation based on the financial and economic sources you talk to? jim tankersley Well, people have been warning about runaway inflation from government spending in recessions since the 1970s, when we really did have runaway inflation, and it was horrible for the country. But it just hasn’t shown up in any of the time since then, including in the last crisis, 2009. There were lots of warnings from economists that inflation was right around the corner. And it just hasn’t shown up. Inflation has been quite low historically over the last 10 years or so. So it’s almost a boy crying wolf situation. The burden of proof is on the people who are saying inflation is going to come really fast right now. Because those people have been wrong a lot in recent history when they’ve made similar warnings. michael barbaro So, Jim, the inflation threat may be overstated. But I don’t think we’re overstating the depth of the opposition from Republicans to the stimulus bill. So that would make you think that their voters share these concerns about the stimulus bill. Do they? jim tankersley Actually, no. Polls showed that this bill is widely popular. Recently, we did polling with Survey Monkey. And they found that 70 percent of Americans support the Biden plan, including more than two in five Republicans, which is a lot for a bill pushed by a Democratic president. The support grows when you look at individual core components like the direct checks. The checks get 80 percent overall approval. And a majority of Republicans say that they’re important to the bill. michael barbaro I really can’t think of many things in American life that garner 70 percent approval in polls, other than puppies and pizza. So doesn’t that leave Republicans fighting something that their own constituents clearly want? And how do those Republicans answer for that with those constituents? jim tankersley The way the answer it is to say, hey, we know people want help. But we don’t think they want this bill. We think once we tell them more about what’s in this bill, they’ll see that it has too much extraneous stuff that doesn’t actually help the economy get better faster the way that people would want. Now, Republicans are betting that over time, they can drive down the support for this bill by making a bunch of political arguments against it, because they believe the public wants something more targeted. That’s their favorite word to use. They think people want smaller amounts of spending, people don’t want as much debt added to an already growing national debt. But the flip side of that bad is that they could be very much the victims of Democrats saying, hey, we were there for the economy when it needed us toward the end of the pandemic. And Republicans were not. They refused to help. And we’re the ones who got your checks. We’re the ones who got you a bunch of very popular things. And that’s the other part of this is that the individual components of this bill, many of the things Republicans don’t like are very popular. So there is some bipartisan appeal to sending people money. And Republicans are fighting that now. michael barbaro OK, so I want to ask a question that may be on the minds of listeners about this moment in the pandemic and in the pandemic recession, which is that we’ve started to turn a corner, right? Vaccinations are well underway. It feels like we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So is there an argument to be made that a bill this big is not necessary at this moment? jim tankersley Yes, and actually the case is that if the parts of the bill work that are meant to speed up the end of the pandemic, the vaccinations and the testing and everything, that might actually make it less necessary to have the parts that are there to expand the safety net and extend it for a bunch of months. If the first part of the bill works, we might not actually even need to spend all of the money for the second part, because hopefully, more people will be going back to work and won’t need unemployment benefits, more people are putting food on the table and don’t need SNAP benefits, et cetera. But on the other hand, if that recovery doesn’t accelerate for whatever reason, if we have new strains that spread more infections, or for whatever reason it’s still hard to vaccinate people, there’s an insurance policy, which is that expansion of the safety net, that we have several more months now of knowing that there will be help for vulnerable Americans who have lost jobs and are struggling to make rent and everything else that the bill is meant to address. So if it works, then we may not need all that money. And if it doesn’t, there’s an insurance policy here. michael barbaro Got it. So this is a $2 trillion insurance plan against the possibility that the recovery is not as fast or as thorough as everyone would like for it to be in the coming months. And some of that money won’t get spent, as in all insurance policies, if it’s not needed? jim tankersley Right, absolutely. And it’s especially an insurance policy for people on the low-income end of the spectrum— people who have lost their jobs, who have lost hours, who are struggling to make rent and put food on the table. They are the ones still really hurting right now. And the tragic possibility would be that if aid gets cut off too soon, we could come very, very close to the end of the pandemic and see people start to fall through the cracks, lose their homes, go hungry, suffer just immense economic distress, when true relief and recovery is just right around the corner as the economy hopefully brightens up again. michael barbaro Thank you, Jim, we appreciate it. jim tankersley Thank you. archived recording (chuck schumer) The Senate will take up the American Rescue Plan this week. michael barbaro On Monday afternoon, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, said that the Senate would begin debating the stimulus package in the coming days. archived recording (chuck schumer) I expect a hearty debate and some late nights. But the American people sent us here with a job to do, to help the country through this moment of extraordinary challenge, to end, through action, the greatest health crisis our country has faced in a century. And that’s just what we are going to do. michael barbaro We’ll be right back. Here’s what else you need to know today. A new study has found that the high rate of staff turnover at US nursing homes likely contributed to the staggering number of coronavirus deaths inside the facilities over the past year. The study found that the average annual turnover at the country’s more than 15,000 nursing homes was 128 percent and as high as 300 percent at some facilities, meaning that a huge number of workers left and were replaced throughout the pandemic. Researchers found that turnover that high made it difficult to enforce health protocols at nursing homes and helped lead to rampant spread of the virus inside of them. Today’s episode was produced by Stella Tan and Daniel Guillemette. It was edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow and engineered by Corey Schreppel. That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. [music] National Guard troops at the Capitol in Washington last week.Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times The Capitol Police is preparing for another assault on the Capitol building on Thursday after obtaining intelligence of a potential plot by a militia group, just two months after a deadly siege on the building by a mob of Trump loyalists and extremists. “The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats toward members of Congress or toward the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.” “We are taking the intelligence seriously,” the Capitol Police said. But one senior federal official said previously that officials did not deem there to be a specific, credible threat from the online chatter. Another law enforcement official on Wednesday described the recent threat as “aspirational.” Still, the threat by the militia group prompted the Capitol Police to increase the number of officers at the building, where a fence installed after the attack on Jan. 6 has remained. Melissa Smislova, the acting under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence branch, told senators on Wednesday that the department had issued a joint bulletin with the F.B.I. warning of potential violence by a militia group on March 4. It is not clear which group posed the threat described in the intelligence. Homeland Security analysts have tracked for weeks online chatter about March 4 by followers of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, according to a senior law enforcement official, however followers of the movement are not organized as a militia. While some believers questioned the credibility of QAnon after President Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, others began homing in on March 4, the Constitution’s original Inauguration Day for presidents. QAnon’s central tenet is that Donald J. Trump was elected to take on a cabal of Democrats, international financiers and deep-state bureaucrats who worship Satan, abuse children and seek to dominate the world. That did not come to pass while Mr. Trump was in office, and in the aftermath of Mr. Biden’s inauguration, some of the followers of the conspiracy theory latched on to March 4 as the day Mr. Trump would be restored to the presidency and renew his crusade against America’s enemies. The theory is far from universally accepted among QAnon adherents, and a number of the movement’s most influential voices have downplayed it or told followers not to plan protests or any kind of action on March 4. Federal law enforcement agencies, including the Homeland Security Department, have been criticized for not widely sharing warnings in the days before Jan. 6. But federal officials have emphasized the difficulty in differentiating between dialogue on online platforms protected by the First Amendment and definitive threats of violence. The new plot against the Capitol comes as federal law enforcement officials have issued repeated warnings on the heightened threat by domestic extremists emboldened by the attack on Jan. 6. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, told senators on Tuesday that the attack on Jan. 6 was domestic terrorism and such a threat was “metastasizing across the country.” And Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that in the first two months of 2021 there had been a nearly 94 percent increase in threats to members of Congress compared to the first two months of 2020. Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:31 -0:00 transcript D.C. National Guard Commander Testifies Before Congress Following Capitol Riot D.C. National Guard Commander, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, testified on Wednesday that he was not given the approval to mobilize troops during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol until hours after his initial request. At 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, we watched as the Metropolitan Police Department began to employ officers to support the Capitol Police. In doing so, the officers began to withdraw from the traffic control points that were jointly manned with District of Columbia Guardsmen. At 1:49 p.m., I received a frantic call from then-Chief of United States Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol, and he requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster. Immediately after that, 1:49 call, I alerted the U.S. Army senior leadership of the request. The approval for his Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at 5:08 p.m., about three hours and 19 minutes later. I had already had Guardsmen on buses at the armory ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20 p.m., less than 20 minutes, the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol and were being sworn in by the United States Capitol Police. We hoped to establish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the joint session of Congress. D.C. National Guard Commander, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, testified on Wednesday that he was not given the approval to mobilize troops during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol until hours after his initial request.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Greg NashMilitary and federal security officials detailed on Wednesday further security breakdowns that failed to stop the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol, including that the head of the D.C. National Guard did not receive approval to mobilize troops until more than three hours after he requested it, outlining a longer delay than previously known and emphasizing bureaucratic restrictions that hindered efforts to quell the violence. The Guard commander, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, got word that Pentagon officials had authorized his request at 5:08 p.m. — more than three hours after he received a desperate plea for help from the then-chief of the Capitol Police, General Walker said. “We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol,” he said, testifying alongside officials from the F.B.I. and departments of Homeland Security and Defense about security and intelligence failures ahead of the deadly rampage. The Pentagon had removed his own authority to quickly deploy his troops, which also slowed the response to the riot, he said. He said that he was unable to even move troops from one traffic stop to another without permission from the secretary of the Army. Once he had the approval, the Guard arrived at the building in less than 20 minutes and helped re-establish the security perimeter on the east side of the Capitol. Military officials had authorized Guard troop deployment at 3:04 p.m. that afternoon, according to the Pentagon, an approval that was itself delayed as officials there debated concerns about the optics of sending troops into the Capitol. The reason for the delay in conveying the message of eventual approval to General Walker was not immediately clear. But during those hours, video and interviews have shown, the Capitol Police and supporting forces were overwhelmed in trying to fight off the pro-Trump mob. “That number could have made a difference,” General Walker said of the possibility of deploying his troops earlier. He said he could have had 150 troops at the Capitol in 20 minutes. He also said that he believed that Pentagon officials’ concerns about optics were misguided and that forces needed to be quickly sent to the Capitol to help repel the rioters. “Seconds mattered,” General Walker added. “Minutes mattered. They made a difference.” General Walker said that Pentagon officials placed restrictions before Jan. 6 on his ability to deploy troops and called it “unusual.” He noted that military officials had not raised concerns about optics last summer when the National Guard was deployed in Washington to help quell violence that erupted as racial justice protests were underway across the country. The restrictions on the Guard on Jan. 6 were put in place because of aggressive tactics by the Guard during the June deployment that drew criticism, said Robert Salesses, a senior Defense Department official testifying at the hearing. He said that the secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, and other military officials delayed making a decision on Jan. 6 about whether to deploy forces because they wanted to know more about what they would be doing. Their testimony came at the latest bipartisan investigative hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee. “We must get to the bottom of why that very day it took the Defense Department so long to deploy the guard,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chairwoman of the rules committee, adding that the insurrectionists “came prepared for war.” After hearing General Walker’s testimony, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the top Republican on the committee, told reporters he wanted to hear from higher-ranking officials in the military. “Certainly we’ll have questions for Secretary McCarthy and for acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller,” Mr. Blunt said. “It’s definitely going to require an opportunity to ask them questions about their view from their perspective of why this decision-making process went so horribly wrong.” At the first joint oversight meeting of the two committees last week, three former top Capitol security officials deflected responsibility for security failures that contributed to the riot, blaming the other agencies, each other and at one point even a subordinate for the breakdowns that allowed hundreds of Trump supporters to storm the Capitol. The officials testified that the F.B.I. and the intelligence community had failed to provide adequate warnings that rioters planned to seize the Capitol and that the Pentagon was too slow to authorize Guard troops to help overwhelmed police after the attack began. In addition to General Walker and Mr. Salesses, the officials testifying are Melissa Smislova, a senior official from Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and Jill Sanborn, the F.B.I.’s assistant director of its Counterterrorism Division. Representative Ronny Jackson, Republican of Texas and the former top White House physician, was accused of creating a hostile work environment and other inappropriate behavior.Credit...Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images The Department of Defense inspector general concluded in an unreleased report that Representative Ronny Jackson, Republican of Texas, “disparaged” his subordinates, including pounding on the door of a woman who worked for him in the middle of the night during a presidential trip, and engaged in problematic drinking while working as the top White House physician. The report, which was obtained by The New York Times, shed light on a number of rumors that had dogged Dr. Jackson beginning in 2018, after former President Donald J. Trump nominated him to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. After allegations emerged that Dr. Jackson had improperly distributed prescription drugs, created a hostile work environment, and had problems with drinking, the White House withdrew his nomination. Dr. Jackson went on to win a crowded Republican primary race to represent a district in northeastern Texas and was elected to Congress in 2020. The 37-page report, first described by CNN, painted a picture of a physician who engaged in reckless and sometimes threatening behavior, creating an uncomfortable environment for subordinates. A majority of the 60 witnesses interviewed by investigators said that Dr. Jackson had created a negative work environment, and nearly all of them said they had either personally witnessed, experienced or heard from colleagues about Dr. Jackson “screaming, cursing or belittling subordinates.” Investigators also found that Dr. Jackson had engaged in inappropriate behavior on trips abroad with Mr. Trump and former President Barack Obama, whom he also served. In 2014, before a trip to Manila, witnesses said Dr. Jackson told a male subordinate that he thought a female medical professional they were working with had a nice figure, using colorful language, and that he would “like to see more of her tattoos.” While in Manila, witnesses said that Dr. Jackson went out on the town for a night of drinking, came back to the hotel where the medical team was staying and began yelling and pounding on the female subordinate’s hotel room door between 1 and 2 a.m. while “visibly intoxicated.” Witnesses said he created so much noise they worried it would wake Mr. Obama. “He had kind of bloodshot eyes,” the woman recalled to investigators. “You could smell the alcohol on his breath, and he leaned into my room and he said, ‘I need you.’ I felt really uncomfortable.” On a separate trip to Argentina with Mr. Trump, a witness recalled that Dr. Jackson “smelled of alcohol” as he assumed his duties as the primary physician on the trip, and that the doctor had a beer a few hours before going on duty, in defiance of a policy prohibiting White House medical personnel from drinking on presidential trips. Dr. Jackson had previously recounted to witnesses that he found that rule to be “stupid,” investigators found. Former subordinates interviewed by investigators additionally raised the concern that Dr. Jackson took Ambien, a powerful sleep-aid medication, to help him sleep during long overseas travel. Though it appears Dr. Jackson was never called upon to provide medical care after he had taken the drug, his subordinates worried that it could have left him incapacitated and unable to perform his duties. In a lengthy statement, Dr. Jackson accused the inspector general of resurrecting “false allegations” because “I have refused to turn my back on President Trump.” “I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty,” Dr. Jackson said. “I also categorically deny any implication that I was in any way sexually inappropriate at work, outside of work, or anywhere with any member of my staff or anyone else. That is not me and what is alleged did not happen.” In a fact sheet also provided to reporters, Dr. Jackson’s office noted that Mr. Obama had promoted him to rear admiral “after the alleged events” outlined in the report, and that the then-president had profusely praised him for his work. Shalanda Young testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times The top trio of House Democratic leaders on Wednesday recommended Shalanda Young to be President Biden’s budget office director after the White House withdrew its nomination for Neera Tanden to serve in the role in the face of bipartisan opposition. The formal endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representatives Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, and James Clyburn of South Carolina, the majority whip, is a significant boost to Ms. Young, who is currently the nominee to serve as the deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget. The three leaders worked closely with Ms. Young, who was the first Black woman to serve as the staff director for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee. “Her legislative prowess, extensive knowledge of federal agencies, incisive strategic mind and proven track record will be a tremendous asset to the Biden-Harris administration,” the three leaders said in a statement. “Her leadership at the O.M.B. would be historic and would send a strong message that this administration is eager to work in close coordination with members of Congress to craft budgets that meet the challenges of our time and can secure broad, bipartisan support.” Fallback nominees for the position also include Gene Sperling, a former National Economic Council director, and Ann O’Leary, the former chief of staff to Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. But the statement Wednesday morning underscored how Ms. Young has earned the support of lawmakers across Capitol Hill, ranging from Democratic leaders in both chambers to the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Long before Ms. Tanden’s decision to withdraw her nomination on Tuesday, Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, went so far as to issue a statement preemptively announcing that Ms. Young “would have my support, and I suspect many of my Republican colleagues would support her as well.” At her confirmation hearing for the No. 2 spot at the budget agency, multiple Republicans also signaled their support for Ms. Young, who helped negotiate in 2019 the end to the nation’s longest government shutdown in her role on the House Appropriations Committee and the series of pandemic relief bills in 2020. “Everybody that deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the budget panel. “You might talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it.” “You’ll get my support, maybe for both jobs,” he noted. Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:49 -0:00 transcript Blinken Highlights Domestic Impacts of American Foreign Policy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken sought to connect the Biden administration’s diplomatic actions abroad with issues directly impacting Americans at home in his first major foreign policy address on Wednesday. I know that foreign policy can sometimes feel disconnected from our daily lives. It’s either all about major threats like pandemics, terrorism, or it fades from view. As a result, for some time now, Americans have been asking tough, but fair questions about what we’re doing, how we’re leading, indeed, whether we should be leading at all. With this in mind, we’ve set the foreign policy priorities for the Biden administration by asking a few simple questions. What will our foreign policy mean for American workers and their families? What do we need to do around the world to make us stronger here at home? And what do we need to do at home to make us stronger in the world? American leadership and engagement matter. We’re hearing this now from our friends, they’re glad we’re back. Whether we like it or not, the world does not organize itself. When the U.S. pulls back, one of two things is likely to happen: either another country tries to take our place, but not in a way that advances our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one steps up, and then we get chaos and all the dangers it creates. Either way, that’s not good for America. Another enduring principle is that we need countries to cooperate now more than ever. Not a single global challenge that affects your lives can be met by any one nation acting alone, not even one as powerful as the United States. And there is no wall high enough or strong enough to hold back the changes transforming our world. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken sought to connect the Biden administration’s diplomatic actions abroad with issues directly impacting Americans at home in his first major foreign policy address on Wednesday.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Andrew Caballero-ReynoldsSecretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivered his first major address on Wednesday, rallying a domestic constituency for President Biden’s foreign policy at a time when Americans are focused on the pandemic, the economy and other problems at home. The 28-minute speech, delivered to a mostly empty reception room at the State Department, sought to show that the most urgent issues of diplomacy had a direct impact on Americans. From defending democracy to protecting the environment to navigating relations with China, which he called “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” Mr. Blinken outlined eight top priorities of the Biden administration’s foreign policy. He said those issues must be confronted both at home and abroad, “or we fall short.” “I know that foreign policy can sometimes feel disconnected from our daily lives,” Mr. Blinken said. “It’s either all about major threats like pandemics, terrorism, or it fades from view.” As a result, he said, “Americans have been asking tough but fair questions about what we’re doing, how we’re leading — indeed, whether we should be leading at all.” There were no new policy announcements in the address, which, before the pandemic, might have been delivered to an audience far beyond the Beltway. (Mr. Blinken’s immediate predecessor, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, frequently traveled across the United States to talk to college students, factory workers and religious organizations about foreign policy, although critics were quick to note that his comments also seemed directed at potential voters as he weighed his political future.) Mr. Blinken acknowledged that past administrations — including the Obama White House, in which he served — had made substantial errors in foreign policy that had affected ordinary Americans in negative ways. The White House is expected later today to give departments and agencies “interim strategic guidance” on foreign policy and national security, providing what Mr. Blinken called “initial direction” as the administration devises more detailed plans. The first lady, Jill Biden, and the education secretary, Miguel Cardona, visited the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Conn. on Wednesday. Credit...Pool photo by Mandel Ngan MERIDEN, Conn. — Following President Biden’s call on Tuesday to have every school employee receive at least one vaccine shot by the end of March, the White House began a campaign to drum up support for the quick reopening of the nation’s schools by sending the first lady, Jill Biden, and the newly confirmed education secretary, Miguel Cardona, on a two-state tour of reopened schools on Wednesday. At their first stop in Meriden, Conn. — Dr. Cardona’s hometown — the secretary said that quickly vaccinating teachers would be his “top priority.” “We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in person learning as quickly and as safely as possible,” he said at an elementary school where students were learning in masks and behind plexiglass dividers. “The president recognizes this, which is why he took bold action yesterday to get teachers and school staff vaccinated quickly.” Dr. Cardona was less well known before he was tapped by the president to serve as education secretary. As the state education commissioner in Connecticut, he pushed to reopen the state’s schools during the coronavirus pandemic. The White House now expects Dr. Cardona to do the same on a national scale, as teacher’s unions around the country raise concerns about the safety of resuming in-person instruction. Dr. Biden, who has a doctorate in educational leadership and teaches full-time at Northern Virginia Community College, said that while the White House would be following Dr. Cardona’s lead, both she and her students were impatient to return safely to classrooms. “Teachers want to be back,” she said. “We want to be back. Last week I said to my students, ‘Hey, guys, how’re you doing?’ And they said ‘Dr. B, we’re doing OK, but we can’t wait to be back to the classroom.’” Parents across the country are frustrated with the pace of reopening, and in some cases are starting to rebel. Nationally, fewer than half of students are attending public schools that offer traditional in-person instruction full time. And many teachers have rejected plans to return to the classroom without being vaccinated. Even so, most schools are already operating at least partially in person, and evidence suggests that they are doing so relatively safely. Research shows in-school virus spread can be mitigated with simple safety measures like masking, distancing, hand-washing and open windows. “Let’s treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is,” Mr. Biden said on Tuesday, even as he noted that not every school employee would be able to get a vaccine next week. “And that means getting essential workers who provide that service — educators, school staff, child care workers — get them vaccinated immediately.” Educators will be able to sign up to receive a vaccine through a local drugstore as part of a federal program in which shots are delivered directly to pharmacies, Mr. Biden said. White House officials said Mr. Biden’s move to speed up vaccination of teachers is based on the president’s view that they are critical to getting the country back to normal. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday that inoculating teachers is “not a prerequisite,” but that Mr. Biden believes they should be “prioritized.” At least 34 states and the District of Columbia are already vaccinating school workers to some extent, according to a New York Times database. Others were quick to fall in line after Mr. Biden announced his plan. On Tuesday, Washington State added educators and licensed child care workers to its top tier for priority, accelerating its plan by a few weeks. In guidelines issued last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged that elementary and secondary schools be reopened as soon as possible, and offered a step-by-step plan to get students back in classrooms. While the agency recommended giving teachers priority, it said that vaccination should “nevertheless not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.” Many schools are already fully open in areas with substantial or high community transmission, where the agency suggests schools be open only in hybrid mode or in distance-learning mode. The agency says those schools can remain open if mitigation strategies are consistently implemented, students and staff are masked, and monitoring of cases in school suggests limited transmission. The agency’s guidelines say that six feet of distancing between individuals is required at substantial and high levels of community transmission. Many school buildings cannot accommodate that, which may lead some districts to stick with a hybrid instruction model when they might otherwise have gone to full in-person instruction. Many local teachers’ unions remain adamantly opposed to restarting in-person learning now, saying that school districts do not have the resources or the inclination to follow C.D.C. guidance on coronavirus safety. Without vaccinations, the unions say, adults in schools would remain vulnerable to serious illness or death from Covid-19 because children, while much less prone to illness, can nevertheless readily carry the virus. Studies suggest that children under 10 transmit the virus about half as efficiently as adults do, but older children may be much like adults. The unions have a ready ear in the White House. Dr. Biden, a community college professor, is a member of the National Education Association, and the president has a long history with the unions. Dr. Biden and Mr. Cardona were scheduled to meet with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, in Connecticut, and with Becky Pringle, the N.E.A. president, in Pennsylvania. On Dr. Biden’s tour, Ms. Weingarten jumped in at points to speak about the need for flexibility with different teaching styles. Epidemiological models have shown that vaccinating teachers could greatly reduce infections in schools. “It should be an absolute priority,” said Carl Bergstrom, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. Still, requiring that teachers be vaccinated could greatly slow the pace of school reopenings, he and other experts acknowledged. Teachers’ unions want not just vaccination, but also that districts improve ventilation and ensure six feet of distancing — two measures that have been shown to reduce the spread of the virus. (The C.D.C. guidelines emphasize six feet of distance only when prevalence of the virus is high, and nodded only briefly to the need for ventilation.) The unions have also insisted that schools not open until the infection rates in their communities are very low. Apoorva Mandavilli and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, center, in a game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.Credit...Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports, via Reuters The N.B.A. is partnering with a group founded by LeBron James to promote voting rights during the All-Star Game this weekend in Atlanta, just as the U.S. House prepares to vote on a sweeping voting rights bill. More Than a Vote, which was founded by the Los Angeles Lakers star last year, will join with the N.B.A.’s National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, the National Basketball Players Association and the Georgia chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. to protest efforts by the Republican-controlled State Legislature to end automatic voter registration, ban drop boxes and eliminate the broad availability of absentee voting. Democrats say the changes would have an outsize impact on Black voters. “We all need to continue to use our platform,” Mr. James wrote to his 49 million followers on Twitter on Tuesday, sharing a link to a report about the campaign in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This last election won’t change anything if we don’t keep working.” The group’s plans include a social media campaign and interviews with league stars promoting expanded voting rights, according to a statement. Mr. James’s group has helped to recruit about 40,000 volunteer poll workers and assisted residents of Florida who have felony records to register to vote — after the state approved a referendum expanding ballot access to lower-level former offenders. The All-Star Game campaign comes as House Democrats in Washington prepared on Wednesday to pass omnibus federal voting legislation that would blunt attempts by Republican-led states to impose new restrictions to the ballot box. In addition to Georgia, new voting restrictions have passed in Iowa, and many other states are lining up similar efforts. Among the provisions in the House bill, designated H.R. 1 by Democrats to reflect its importance to their agenda, are strict national requirements that would disallow restrictive voter identification laws enacted by states, mandate automatic voter registration, vastly expand early and mail-in voting, and restore voting rights to former felons. Proponents expect the changes to increase voting in Black and Latino communities. The bill would also eliminate partisan gerrymandering, impose new transparency on dark money in the campaign finance system and tighten government ethics standards. Democrats expected to pass the bill through the House in the face of unified Republican opposition. Its fate in the Senate, where Democrats have only narrow control, appeared uncertain; unless Democrats agree to significantly alter the bill or eliminate the legislative filibuster that requires them to win at least 10 Republican votes, it has little chance of becoming law. House Democrats intend to hold a separate vote in the coming months on legislation to restore key enforcement provisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. But that effort also faces an exceedingly narrow path in the Senate. The Ayn Al Asad air base in Anbar Province, Iraq, in 2019. It is one of the last remaining bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed.Credit...Nasser Nasser/Associated Press A barrage of rockets was fired on Wednesday at the Ayn al Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province — one of the last remaining Iraqi bases where U.S. forces are stationed. An Iraqi security statement and one released by the Pentagon said that 10 missiles were launched at the sprawling base. A senior Defense Department official said that a U.S. contractor had died of an apparent heart attack during the rocket barrage. Officials in Washington did not identify the group responsible for the attack. The Pentagon said in a statement that the missile defense system at Ayn Al Asad “engaged in defense of our forces” and added, “We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the individual who died.” The Sabareen news outlet, which is affiliated with Iran-backed militias, said three U.S. soldiers had been killed in the attack — a report completely at odds with the official Defense Department account. The assault came just under a week after the United States attacked Iran-backed militia targets at the Syria-Iraq border. Those airstrikes, ordered by the Biden administration, hit a collection of buildings on the Syrian side of a border crossing. President Biden had originally approved two targets inside Syria, administration officials said. The Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah said one of its fighters had been killed in those airstrikes. It identified him as a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces that are officially part of Iraqi security forces helping prevent infiltration by the Islamic State. The second strike that Mr. Biden approved was aborted at the last minute after American forces learned that there were women and children at that site, also in Syria, administration officials said. At the first site, at Abu Kamal, two F-15E Strike Eagles dropped seven 500-pound satellite-guided bombs on nine buildings, the officials said. Mr. Biden chose targets in Syria to avoid political blowback on the Iraqi government, officials said. The assault on the base on Wednesday came just days before a visit by Pope Francis to Iraq beginning on Friday — the first ever papal visit to the war-ravaged country. The attackers who targeted the base on Wednesday used BM-21 “Grad” missiles, fired from about five miles from the base, officials said. A local paramilitary leader near the base said he had heard the impact of the rockets and then gone to investigate. The leader, Sheikh Qutri Kahlan al-Obeidi, said he had found “a burned vehicle — a Mitsubishi pickup,” rigged with missile launchers. Vacant commercial space in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.Credit...Harisson Weinstein for The New York Times The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package is on the fast track, but Washington is still trying to find the right fix for an overlooked aspect of the crisis: a massive tax shortfall experienced by cities hit by the collapse in commercial property values. Local governments rely on property tax revenue to fund an array of vital programs and services, and those ghostly rows of empty commercial buildings are not just eyesores, but a growing policy problem. At a meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen last month, Jeff Williams, the Republican mayor of Arlington, Texas, laid out his grim predicament: While pandemic relief costs and sluggish tax revenue and tourism were partly to blame for budget shortfalls, the big worry, Mr. Williams said, was all those the empty buildings. Many states had stronger-than-expected revenue in 2020, but municipal budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes, are facing real estate revenue losses of as much as 10 percent in 2021, according to government finance officials. For states, property taxes account for just about 1 percent of tax revenue, but they can make up 30 percent or more of the taxes that cities and towns collect. The National League of Cities, an advocacy organization, estimates that cities could face a $90 billion shortfall this year. Lawmakers in Washington are negotiating over a stimulus package that could provide as much as $350 billion to states and cities. On Saturday, the House passed a $1.9 trillion bill that garnered no Republican support. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week. Republicans have continued to object to significant aid for states, but local officials from both parties say the help cannot come soon enough — and worry if it will be sufficient. According to Moody’s, commercial real estate values are projected to decline by 7.2 percent nationally from their pre-pandemic levels this year, with the office and retail sectors hit hardest. States that do not have income taxes, such as Florida and Texas, are the most vulnerable to fluctuations in real estate values. Big cities are bearing the brunt of the work-from-home exodus from offices. Unused space in San Francisco increased by nearly 75 percent last year, while empty office space increased by more than 25 percent in Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City. Last year, Representative Van Taylor, Republican of Texas, introduced legislation that would allow the federal government to take a small ownership stake in hotels and other companies. But commercial real estate has been one of the few sectors not to receive direct government support in packages Congress passed in 2020. Even some economists who have expressed skepticism about municipal aid representing a blanket bailout now acknowledge that lost commercial property tax revenue is an area that could use some targeted shoring up. “I’m actually quite worried about the commercial real estate sector,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, who has advised Republicans. A cashier at work in a grocery store in Charlottesville, Va., last week.Credit...Eze Amos for The New York Times The demise of President Biden’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage as part of his economic stimulus plan has prompted anger among progressives on Capitol Hill and around the country, threatening to overshadow a moment of triumph for Democrats this week as they push through a nearly $2 trillion pandemic aid package. The simmering tension is unlikely to derail the plan, which is packed with longtime Democratic priorities including enhanced federal jobless aid, direct payments to Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars for states, cities and tribal governments suffering fiscal shortfalls. But the liberal angst over the measure, coming little more than a month after Mr. Biden took office, foreshadows larger fights to come over the rest of his agenda, and a difficult road ahead for Democrats in navigating the divide. It also risks muddling what the White House and party leaders had hoped would be a clear and politically potent message on the stimulus measure, which Democrats are working feverishly to portray as a momentous and broadly popular accomplishment that Republicans should be scorned for opposing. Instead, some of the loudest progressive voices in recent days have been focused on demanding that Mr. Biden and leading Democrats push harder to rescue the minimum wage increase proposal from a procedural thicket in the Senate by changing the chamber’s rules. Their pleas ignore the fact that the proposal does not have enough support even among Democrats to pass. “This cause has touched a nerve among progressive advocacy groups and among activists around the country in a way that I haven’t seen,” said Representative Ro Khanna of California, who led a letter to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday that was signed by 23 Democrats asking them to overrule a top official who has deemed the wage increase out of order for the stimulus measure. “This is a defining moment for our party, for the administration. I think that there’s the opportunity to really be the hero to millions of Americans who are looking to us to deliver.” With unemployment benefits set to begin running out on March 14 and an evenly divided Senate offering little room for dissent or delay, the White House and leading Democrats have rejected such entreaties, and Mr. Biden has instead begun an outreach campaign to Democratic lawmakers to ensure swift passage of the legislation. In a private 15-minute phone call with senators on Tuesday, the president emphasized the need for Democrats to remain united around a bill that has drawn wide bipartisan support outside Washington, counseling lawmakers to move swiftly and reject so-called poison pill amendments from Republicans intended to kill it, according to four people familiar with the discussion who described it on the condition of anonymity. On Wednesday, Mr. Biden is set to address a different group of Democratic lawmakers, with a virtual event planned with the House Democratic caucus. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Friday.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times For ambitious Republicans who are mulling a presidential bid, a challenging and at times uncomfortable audition is underway this winter: trying to use the Trump political playbook to impress and inherit the former president’s supporters — all while navigating the limitation of not being Donald J. Trump. Last weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., was the most visible stage yet for these politicians — not to mention where they confronted the most scrutiny. In interviews, dozens of attendees signaled the contradictions that future presidential candidates would need to embody to win their support. The attendees said they were most drawn to Republicans who both pledged fealty to Mr. Trump and appeared to showcase a distinct political identity — figures like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida; Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota; Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri; and Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state. And while they expected the party’s next star to be a “fighter” in the mold of Mr. Trump, they also bristled at speakers who seemed as if they were trying to mimic him outright — like Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Senator Rick Scott of Florida. “It’s like Hellmann’s mayonnaise — you can’t imitate it, man,” said Waverly Woods, 54, a Republican activist from Virginia Beach. “You’re either real mayonnaise, or you’re not.” Much of Mr. Cotton’s CPAC address seemed like imitation, with the senator invoking many of the grievances popularized by Mr. Trump — “cancel culture,” critical race theory — yet struggling to elicit the same emotional response. Mr. Cotton, who notched one percentage point in the conference’s non-Trump straw poll of possible 2024 presidential candidates, was not the only Republican hopeful who struggled to resonate, despite adopting Mr. Trump’s language. Even on his home turf, Mr. Scott, who governed the state from 2011 to 2019 and recently became the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, appeared to gain little traction. Armed with more than just a senator’s voting record, governors often have an early edge in presidential contests. But in a moment when almost every prominent Republican — from governors to lawmakers to Fox News personalities — has adopted Mr. Trump’s pledge to “fight,” conservative attendees said they now wanted tales from the front lines. It was the difference between the dutiful laughter when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas cracked jokes about wearing masks in restaurants, and the uproarious applause when Ms. Noem boasted about refusing to shut down her state. She had not just criticized the recommendations of infectious-disease experts like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci; she had actively defied them.