President Biden: Live Updates on Stimulus, Navalny and FBI


Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has little room to maneuver as he seeks to advance President Biden’s stimulus bill, given the 50-50 split in the Senate.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden is set to call into a meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday as he pushes for passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, the first major legislative undertaking of his presidency and one that will pose a high-stakes test of Democratic unity in the 50-50 Senate.

After the House approved the stimulus bill with no support from Republicans over the weekend, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, is planning for the Senate to take up the measure this week.

As Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer press ahead, they are facing constraints both in terms of time and vote-counting math. Unemployment benefits scheduled to begin lapsing on March 14, and the president and lawmakers from his party are determined to move quickly.

At the same time, Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer have exceedingly little room to maneuver in the closely divided Senate, where they cannot afford a single Democratic defection if Republicans are united in opposition to the bill.

On Monday, Mr. Biden met virtually with eight Democratic senators and an independent who caucuses with them, Angus King of Maine. The group, according to a statement from the White House, “was united in the goal of quickly passing a significant package that reflects the scope of the challenges our country is facing.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden will again spend time with Democratic senators, this time by calling into their lunch.

One likely topic of discussion: Last-minute tweaks to the bill that centrist senators have been pushing party leaders to adopt. The bill is already on course to change from what the House passed, including striking an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which the Senate parliamentarian has ruled does not meet the requirements of the budget reconciliation process that Democrats are employing to allow the measure to pass with a simple majority.

Other potential changes include efforts to extend benefits for the unemployed by an additional month, compared with the House bill, and possible changes to the money the bill would send to state, local and tribal governments in order to make up for lost tax revenues amid the pandemic recession.

Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, during a court hearing in Moscow last month.
Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The Biden Administration declassified an intelligence finding on Tuesday that Russia’s F.S.B., one of its leading intelligence agencies, orchestrated the poisoning of Aleksei A. Navalny, and announced its first sanctions against the Russian government for the attack and the imprisonment of the opposition politician.

The sanctions closely mirrored a series of actions that European nations and Britain took last October and expanded on Monday. Senior administration officials said it was part of an effort to show unity in the new administration’s first confrontations with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

But none of the sanctions were specifically directed at Mr. Putin, or the country’s intelligence chiefs or the oligarchs that support the Russian leader.

In announcing the role of the F.S.B., or Federal Security Service, in the poisoning, American intelligence officials were confirming the reports of many news organizations, some of which traced the individual agents who tracked Mr. Navalny and attacked him with Novichok, a nerve agent that Russia has used against other dissidents. It was unclear if the United States planned to release a formal report, as it did last week when it confirmed two-year-old findings on the role of the Saudi crown prince in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or would simply summarize the key finding in the Navalny case.

The sanction actions were notable chiefly because they are the first Mr. Biden has taken in five weeks since he became president. While most past presidents have come into office declaring they would seek a reset of relations with Russia, Mr. Biden has done the opposite — warning that Mr. Putin is driving his country back into an era of authoritarianism, and promising to push back on violations of human rights and efforts to destabilize Europe.

One official told reporters on Tuesday morning that the administration was not seeking to reset relations, but also was not seeking to escalate confrontations. The test may come in the next few weeks, when the administration is expected to announce its response to the SolarWinds cyberattack, in which suspected Russian hackers bore deeply into nine government agencies and more than 100 companies, stealing data and planting “back doors” into their computer networks.

History suggests the new sanctions may have little effect.

In 2018 the Trump administration announced sanctions against…

Read More:President Biden: Live Updates on Stimulus, Navalny and FBI

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