Biden Doesn’t Shy From Early Fights to Move His Agenda Forward

Here’s what you need to know: President Biden’s biggest priority — and the one he has shown the least inclination to compromise on — is his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times Most administrations start with a burst of activity, but the frenetic action on Capitol Hill this week represents something different — a preview of what to expect over the next two years from a grind-it-out presidency laboring to rack up wins before the 2022 midterm elections. “The bottom line,” wrote Biden adviser Mike Donilon in a memo leaked to reporters last week, is “the country is looking for action.” On Tuesday, the White House plunged neck-deep in a trio of testy confirmation fights, faced down an increasingly united Republican front against President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, and fielded darts from critics, left and right, on the minimum wage and student debt — all the while grappling with centrists from both parties who control the balance of power in the Senate. His predecessor’s impeachment trial and the fallout from the Jan. 6 riot have put Mr. Biden behind schedule, which is giving some allies the jitters. But the animating spirit behind the administration’s approach is impatience — born of the pandemic, the looming midterms and Mr. Biden’s own bitter experiences with Republicans during President Barack Obama’s administration. “He knows he is not going to be judged by the margins he gets in the Senate — the biggest danger is a failure to deliver what he promised,” said Ben LaBolt, a longtime Obama aide who worked in the White House, often around the former vice president. “His approach reflects the sober realities we encountered back in 2009, when the Republicans claimed they were holding out for a deal, but never did one.” As a consequence Mr. Biden has not shied away from conflict while projecting an air of conciliation. A lot of it has to do with his most powerful aide, Ron Klain — who served with him in the vice president’s office and is now the hard-driving White House chief of staff. Mr. Biden’s nomination of Neera Tanden, an outspoken longtime Hillary Clinton adviser close to Mr. Klain, to serve as budget director is a case in point: Her nomination is teetering and may yet fall, but on Tuesday the president said he still planned to “push” for her. Two of Mr. Biden’s other cabinet selections, Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, the nominee to lead the Interior Department, and Xavier Becerra, the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, have drawn fire from the right, but appear on a steadier course to confirmation. Both had confirmation hearings on Tuesday and will face questions from senators again on Wednesday — and senators, already griping about the compressed schedule, will also take up the nomination of Jennifer Granholm, Mr. Biden’s pick for energy secretary, on Wednesday. But the biggest priority for Mr. Biden by far — and the one he has shown the least inclination to compromise on — remains his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, and he is not waiting to see if Republican support materializes. On Tuesday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican open to a much smaller deal, suggested Mr. Biden’s package would not receive any votes from her party. That does not bother Mr. Donilon, one of the president’s closest friends, who wrote “this is not a moment in the country when obstructionism is rewarded” in his memo. Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears before a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.Credit...Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker Two Senate committees abruptly postponed votes they had planned on Wednesday to advance the nomination of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, signaling pessimism that she could secure enough support to be confirmed in an evenly divided Senate. The Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee both postponed the planned votes, according to three people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decisions. Neither panel divulged a reason for the delay, but Ms. Tanden’s nomination has been in jeopardy since Friday, when Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, announced he would not support her, citing concerns about public criticisms she made of lawmakers in both parties in Twitter posts before her selection. White House officials have remained adamant that Mr. Biden plans to stand behind Ms. Tanden, even as moderate Republican senators who Democrats had hoped would provide the necessary votes to confirm her have announced plans to oppose her. With Manchin in the “no” column, at least one Republican would be needed to join all Democrats in support. The vote delays came as a surprise on Wednesday morning, after Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont

Biden Doesn’t Shy From Early Fights to Move His Agenda Forward
Here’s what you need to know: President Biden’s biggest priority — and the one he has shown the least inclination to compromise on — is his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times Most administrations start with a burst of activity, but the frenetic action on Capitol Hill this week represents something different — a preview of what to expect over the next two years from a grind-it-out presidency laboring to rack up wins before the 2022 midterm elections. “The bottom line,” wrote Biden adviser Mike Donilon in a memo leaked to reporters last week, is “the country is looking for action.” On Tuesday, the White House plunged neck-deep in a trio of testy confirmation fights, faced down an increasingly united Republican front against President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, and fielded darts from critics, left and right, on the minimum wage and student debt — all the while grappling with centrists from both parties who control the balance of power in the Senate. His predecessor’s impeachment trial and the fallout from the Jan. 6 riot have put Mr. Biden behind schedule, which is giving some allies the jitters. But the animating spirit behind the administration’s approach is impatience — born of the pandemic, the looming midterms and Mr. Biden’s own bitter experiences with Republicans during President Barack Obama’s administration. “He knows he is not going to be judged by the margins he gets in the Senate — the biggest danger is a failure to deliver what he promised,” said Ben LaBolt, a longtime Obama aide who worked in the White House, often around the former vice president. “His approach reflects the sober realities we encountered back in 2009, when the Republicans claimed they were holding out for a deal, but never did one.” As a consequence Mr. Biden has not shied away from conflict while projecting an air of conciliation. A lot of it has to do with his most powerful aide, Ron Klain — who served with him in the vice president’s office and is now the hard-driving White House chief of staff. Mr. Biden’s nomination of Neera Tanden, an outspoken longtime Hillary Clinton adviser close to Mr. Klain, to serve as budget director is a case in point: Her nomination is teetering and may yet fall, but on Tuesday the president said he still planned to “push” for her. Two of Mr. Biden’s other cabinet selections, Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, the nominee to lead the Interior Department, and Xavier Becerra, the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, have drawn fire from the right, but appear on a steadier course to confirmation. Both had confirmation hearings on Tuesday and will face questions from senators again on Wednesday — and senators, already griping about the compressed schedule, will also take up the nomination of Jennifer Granholm, Mr. Biden’s pick for energy secretary, on Wednesday. But the biggest priority for Mr. Biden by far — and the one he has shown the least inclination to compromise on — remains his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, and he is not waiting to see if Republican support materializes. On Tuesday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican open to a much smaller deal, suggested Mr. Biden’s package would not receive any votes from her party. That does not bother Mr. Donilon, one of the president’s closest friends, who wrote “this is not a moment in the country when obstructionism is rewarded” in his memo. Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears before a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.Credit...Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker Two Senate committees abruptly postponed votes they had planned on Wednesday to advance the nomination of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, signaling pessimism that she could secure enough support to be confirmed in an evenly divided Senate. The Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee both postponed the planned votes, according to three people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decisions. Neither panel divulged a reason for the delay, but Ms. Tanden’s nomination has been in jeopardy since Friday, when Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, announced he would not support her, citing concerns about public criticisms she made of lawmakers in both parties in Twitter posts before her selection. White House officials have remained adamant that Mr. Biden plans to stand behind Ms. Tanden, even as moderate Republican senators who Democrats had hoped would provide the necessary votes to confirm her have announced plans to oppose her. With Manchin in the “no” column, at least one Republican would be needed to join all Democrats in support. The vote delays came as a surprise on Wednesday morning, after Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who leads the budget panel, had told reporters on Tuesday that his committee would move forward. William Burns, President Biden’s nominee to lead the C.I.A., on Capitol Hill in 2014.Credit...Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images William J. Burns, President Biden’s nominee to lead the C.I.A., will face questions at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday on challenges facing the spy agency, including improving intelligence on China, increasing support for officers affected by unexplained ailments and boosting morale among a work force battered by the criticism of former President Donald J. Trump. China is likely to be the focus of questions from a number of lawmakers. Mr. Burns was expected to say that an “adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership poses our biggest geopolitical test.” Mr. Burns, according to current and former officials familiar with his remarks, will also say that the C.I.A. should direct more funding and resources to spying on China, adding more Chinese specialists and ensuring its employees have strong Mandarin language skills. He will link the threat of China to the need to invest in new technology to help improve intelligence collection and analysis. Lawmakers are also likely to raise questions about ailments suffered by current and former agency officers as part of a series of mysterious incidents that have befallen agency officers overseas. Some current and former agency officials have said Russia is the most likely perpetrator of those attacks, but the C.I.A. leadership during the Trump administration described the evidence as not conclusive. While Mr. Burns is unlikely to discuss those episodes in detail, he will reassure lawmakers that he has “no higher priority” than taking care of the agency’s personnel. An experienced diplomat with service in Russia and Jordan, Mr. Burns was tapped in large measure because of his close relationship with Mr. Biden and his ability to clearly explain complex foreign policy problems. The first time that Jake Sullivan, now the national security adviser, met Mr. Burns in December 2008, the veteran ambassador pulled out a small notecard and gave a round-the-world briefing on every major issue to then-incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It was one of the single most impressive displays of breadth and depth on substance that I have ever witnessed,” Mr. Sullivan said. But the Biden administration has also set up a strong national intelligence office and given it a string of high-profile tasks. Some former officials believe some tension could develop between Mr. Burns and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, if they compete for the ear of the president. Mr. Sullivan brushed away the possibility of tension, saying Mr. Burns and Ms. Haines have a trusting relationship. Others said their personalities — far less sharp-elbowed than recent intelligence chiefs — lend themselves to collaboration rather than confrontation. Mr. Burns has experience as a consumer — not a creator — of intelligence. But as the ambassador in Jordan and Russia, he led two embassies where C.I.A. stations had a critical role. And he has close relationships with numerous C.I.A. officers, including some killed in the line of duty. “Our chiefs thought he was a terrific person to work for; he understood our role,” said George Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, who worked with Mr. Burns. “He understands the business of intelligence and what it can do.” A Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. A global shortage in semiconductors — a crucial component in cars and electronic devices — has forced several major American auto plants to close or scale back production.Credit...Justin Kaneps for The New York Times President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday that will kick off a review of the supply chains that support several crucial American manufacturing industries, including automobiles, pharmaceuticals and clean energy. The order will not target imports from any specific country, senior Biden administration officials said Tuesday in a conference call previewing the move, but it is widely seen as the next step in an effort to counter the economic rise of China and to promote factory growth in the United States. The officials cast it as a successor to the “Buy American” order that Mr. Biden signed last month. The president’s order comes as a global shortage in semiconductors — a key component in cars and electronic devices — has forced several major American auto plants to close or scale back production and sent the administration scrambling to appeal to allies like Taiwan for emergency supplies. The officials said the order would not offer a quick fix for that shortage. Instead, it would start an effort to insulate the American economy from future shortages of critical imported components. Mr. Biden plans to order yearlong reviews of six sectors and a 100-day review of four classes of products where American manufacturers rely on imports: computer chips, high-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients, and critical minerals and strategic materials, like rare earths. Subsequent actions to strengthen those supply chains will depend on the vulnerabilities that each review finds, the officials said. The order is an early salvo in the administration’s economic battle with China. China’s dominance of global supply chains for critical products like medical masks and for raw materials has prompted deep concerns that Beijing’s authoritarian government could cut off the United States at a whim. China has periodically moved to ban the export of rare earth materials that are crucial for manufacturing electronics, fighter jets and weaponry. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing halted exports of surgical masks and protective gear as it diverted supplies to its own local governments and hospitals. Beijing has also sought to expand its foothold in certain emerging technologies by investing heavily in research and subsidizing new factories, raising concerns that China could dominate the supply of electric vehicles, advanced telecommunications gear and semiconductors in the same way it has cornered other global markets. The Biden administration is working to rebrand the government with words and pictures that are more inclusive.Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times Days after President Biden took office, the Bureau of Land Management put a scenic landscape of a winding river at the top of its website, which during the previous administration had featured a photograph of a huge wall of coal. At the Department of Homeland Security, the phrase “illegal alien” is being replaced with “noncitizen.” The Interior Department now makes sure that mentions of its stakeholders include “Tribal” people (with a capital “T” as preferred by Native Americans, it said). The most unpopular two words in the Trump lexicon — “climate change” — are once again appearing on government websites and in documents; officials at the Environmental Protection Agency have even begun using the hashtag #climatecrisis on Twitter. And across the government, L.G.B.T.Q. references are popping up everywhere. Visitors to the White House website are now asked whether they want to provide their pronouns when they fill out a contact form: she/her, he/him or they/them. It is all part of a concerted effort by the Biden administration to rebrand the government after four years of President Donald J. Trump, in part by stripping away the language and imagery that represented his anti-immigration, anti-science and anti-gay rights policies and replacing them with words and pictures that are more inclusive and better match the current president’s sensibilities. “Biden is trying to reclaim the vision of America that was there during the Obama administration, a vision that was much more diverse, much more religiously tolerant, much more tolerant of different kinds of gender dispositions and gender presentations,” said Norma Mendoza-Denton, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an author of “Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies.” Ms. Mendoza-Denton said Mr. Trump sought to “remake reality through language” during a tumultuous tenure. Now, officials in Mr. Biden’s administration are using Mr. Trump’s own tactics to erase the words his predecessor used and return to ones that had been banished. “The president has been clear to all of us — words matter, tone matters and civility matters,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary. “And bringing the country together, getting back our seat at the global table means turning the page from the actions but also the divisive and far too often xenophobic language of the last administration.” Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said on Tuesday that he thought if Donald J. Trump ran for president in 2024, he would win the Republican Party’s nomination.Credit...Erin Scott for The New York Times Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said on Tuesday that he believed Donald J. Trump would win the Republican nomination for president if he ran for his former office in 2024, another indication of Mr. Trump’s perceived strength in the party. “I don’t know if he’ll run in 2024 or not, but if he does, I’m pretty sure he will win the nomination,” Mr. Romney said at the DealBook DC Policy Project. Mr. Romney noted that “a lot can happen between now and 2024,” but he added, “I look at the polls, and the polls show that among the names being floated as potential contenders in 2024, if you put President Trump in there among Republicans, he wins in a landslide.” Mr. Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, is the sole Republican senator who voted to convict Mr. Trump at both of his impeachment trials. Asked by The New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin whether he would campaign against Mr. Trump, Mr. Romney responded: “I would not be voting for President Trump again. I haven’t voted for him in the past. And I would probably be getting behind somebody who I thought more represented the tiny wing of the Republican Party that I represent.” Mr. Romney’s comments were a clear sign of Mr. Trump’s enduring position in the Republican Party, even after his election defeat last year and his impeachment on a charge of inciting the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. “He has by far the largest voice and a big impact in my party,” Mr. Romney said.