Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed a bill on Monday that would make it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery — a rare Republican rejection of the growing conservative effort to restrict transgender people’s health care and participation in society.
The Arkansas State Legislature could override Mr. Hutchinson’s veto of the bill, known as H.B. 1570. Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers and passed the bill last month with mostly party-line votes: 70-22 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate.
“I was told this week that the nation is looking at Arkansas because I have on my desk another bill passed by the General Assembly that is a product of the cultural war in America,” Mr. Hutchinson said in announcing his veto. “I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible, but the most recent action of the General Assembly, while well intended, is off course.”
Chase Strangio, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union who has fought anti-trans legislation in Arkansas and other states, said that while he and other advocates needed to be “tentative in our celebration” because of the possibility of an override, Mr. Hutchinson’s veto was significant both practically and symbolically.
“First and foremost, it’s such an important rebuke of this sweeping range of legislation targeting trans youth across the country,” Mr. Strangio said. Referring to two states that are considering similar bills, he added: “I hope Alabama’s watching. I hope Tennessee’s watching.”
The lead sponsors of the bill — State Representative Robin Lundstrum and State Senator Alan Clark, both Republicans — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Republican legislators in numerous states have introduced bills that would restrict transgender rights. In addition to legislation focused on health care, conservatives are pushing bills that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports at school.
Amid increasing opposition from Republicans over his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, President Biden is dispatching five administration officials this week to sell a plan the administration says will not only rebuild roads and bridges but also reverse long-running racial disparities.
Mr. Biden is hoping the five cabinet members can build support both in Congress and throughout the country for the first piece of a two-part plan to rebuild the American economy. The officials — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Marcia L. Fudge, the housing secretary; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm; and Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh — will work to court the bipartisan backing Mr. Biden has said he seeks for the package.
“When you’re in a situation where you can’t turn on a water fountain in school because the water affects your health, that’s infrastructure,” Mr. Biden said Monday as he returned to Washington from spending the weekend at Camp David.
Also Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris toured a water treatment plant in San Leandro, Calif., near Oakland, to highlight the benefits of the American Jobs Plan.
“We must understand the equities and inequities of distribution and access to clean water, especially clean drinking water,” the vice president said, calling the issue “a big part of” the president’s infrastructure plan.
The public relations campaign comes as Republicans appear to be coalescing around a message of their own: Mr. Biden’s plan is really a giant social welfare initiative and tax increase masquerading as infrastructure.
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said he had pitched the White House on a smaller package, around $600 billion, more narrowly focused on traditional infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, airports and ports and funded by user fees and other revenue streams that would not require raising corporate taxes. While Mr. Biden’s plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars for such projects, there are also hundreds of billions in spending for things like in-home care. Republicans argue that is not infrastructure.
“My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way, and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Mr. Blunt said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Biden responded to that sentiment on Monday, accusing Republicans of changing their definition of what counts as infrastructure.
“It’s kind of interesting,” he told reporters. “When the Republicans put forward an infrastructure plan, they thought everything from broadband to dealing with other things were worth paying for.”
He also disputed Republican claims that raising taxes on corporations and businesses, as Mr. Biden envisions in his infrastructure proposals, would drive companies to leave the United States for other countries.
“There’s no evidence of that,” he said. “You’re talking about companies in the Fortune 500 that haven’t paid a single penny in tax for 3 years.”
At least 10 Republican votes would be needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and pass the infrastructure bill under normal procedures, though Democrats have not ruled out using a parliamentary budget tool known as reconciliation to skirt the filibuster and approve the package with only Democratic votes.
Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat in charge of writing tax legislation, will release a new plan on Monday to overhaul the way the United States taxes multinational corporations, in what could be a blueprint for how lawmakers will finance President Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The proposal, which is co-authored by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, could raise hundreds of billions of dollars from companies that operate across international borders, according to analyses of similar proposals by congressional scorekeepers.
In addition to raising revenue, the plan seeks to discourage companies from shifting profits and jobs to low-tax countries to avoid paying taxes in America. It also creates new incentives through the tax code for companies to invest in research and manufacturing in the United States.
The proposal would tweak several aspects of President Donald J. Trump’s signature 2017 tax law, which created a series of new mechanisms for how the United States taxes multinational companies. It would increase the rate of a global minimum tax that was included in that legislation and change how it is applied to income that corporations earn in various countries overseas. It would also alter two other parts of the 2017 law in ways that the senators say would better encourage investment in America.
Those measures mirror the Biden administration’s ambitions on international taxation. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen called for global coordination on an international tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations regardless of where they locate their headquarters.
The presence of Mr. Brown, one of the most progressive Democrats in the Senate on tax issues, and the more centrist Mr. Warner, suggests the Wyden plan could attract widespread support in a Democratic caucus that likely cannot afford to lose a single vote in favor of Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Supreme Court on Monday vacated an appeals court ruling that President Donald J. Trump had violated the First Amendment by blocking people from his Twitter account after they posted critical comments.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in 2019 that Mr. Trump’s account was a public forum from which he was powerless to exclude people based on their viewpoints.
The Supreme Court’s move was expected, as Mr. Trump is no longer president and Twitter has permanently suspended his account.
More surprising was a 12-page concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas musing on what he called the dangerous power a few private companies have over free speech.
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” he wrote. “Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”
No other justice joined the opinion, and Justice Thomas’s views on the First Amendment can be idiosyncratic. But his opinion reflected widespread frustration, particularly among conservatives, about letting private companies decide what the public may read and see.
The appeals court “feared that then-President Trump cut off speech by using the features that Twitter made available to him,” Justice Thomas wrote. “But if the aim is to ensure that speech is not smothered, then the more glaring concern must perforce be the dominant digital platforms themselves.”
A former aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said on Monday that he had recently been questioned by the F.B.I. as investigators seek to determine whether the congressman violated federal sex trafficking laws.
The aide, Nathan Nelson, said that the F.B.I. agents who showed up unannounced on Wednesday believed he may have resigned last year after learning about “illegal activities” by the congressman. Speaking to a dozen reporters on Monday outside his home in Santa Rosa, Fla., Mr. Nelson denied any such knowledge and dismissed accusations of wrongdoing against Mr. Gaetz as “baseless.”
“Neither I nor any members of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” Mr. Nelson said. He added that he thought the investigation was “an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative.”
Mr. Nelson, a retired Air Force captain who advised Mr. Gaetz on military issues from 2017 to last fall, conceded that he had no “specific knowledge” of the Justice Department investigation, which is said to focus on whether the congressman had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid other women who were recruited for sex.
Mr. Nelson’s remarks were arranged and publicized by Mr. Gaetz’s House office. They come as the congressman has moved aggressively — and at times misleadingly — to distract from the heart of the inquiry and portray it as another liberal witch hunt aimed at a conservative, like those targeting his ally former President Donald J. Trump.
“Folks won’t be surprised that bizarre claims are being made about me shortly after I decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway: the establishment; the F.B.I.; the Biden Justice Department; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Justice Department under Trump,” Mr. Gaetz wrote in an Op-Ed on Monday in The Washington Examiner.
He said he was “not a monk, and certainly not a criminal” and denied having sex with a minor or paying for sex.
“To this point, there are exactly zero credible (or even noncredible) accusers willing to come forward by name and state on the public record that I behaved improperly toward them,” he wrote.
The Times first reported the existence of the investigation last Tuesday. People briefed on the case said it stems from a broader investigation into an associate of Mr. Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who has already been indicted on dozens of counts accusing him of an array of crimes, including sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.
Mr. Nelson, who is partially paralyzed from a military service injury, said he had not spoken to Mr. Gaetz in months and did not know Mr. Greenberg.
President Biden, navigating the perilous politics resulting from the influx of migrants at the border with Mexico, on Monday released a video thanking newly naturalized citizens for having the “courage” to come to the United States.
“You all have one thing in common — courage,” Mr. Biden said. “The courage it takes to sacrifice and make this journey. The courage to leave your homes, your lives, your loved ones, and come to a nation that is more than just a place but rather an idea,” in which everyone “is created equal and deserves to be treated equally.”
A poll released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 40 percent of Americans disapprove of the administration’s handling of the surge in children at the nation’s southern border, with only 24 percent approving. A third had no opinion.
Mr. Biden’s remarks — part of a message presidents often record to be played at the end of naturalization ceremonies — struck a different tone than former President Donald J. Trump’s emphasis on the “duties” of immigrants during a video he recorded during his first year in office.
“You have earned a new title equal to that of an America president, the title I’m most proud of — citizen,” Mr. Biden said.
His statement, while consistent with his comments in the past, comes at a time of increased pressure at the border and growing criticism from Republicans who claim Mr. Biden’s pledge to implement a more humane immigration policy has spurred a new wave of migration from Central America.
The authorities apprehended more than 170,000 migrants at the southwest border in March, the most in any month for at least 15 years and up nearly 70 percent from February, government documents obtained by The New York Times showed last week.
Thousands of children remained in detention facilities, and border agents released an increasing number of migrant families into the United States.
More than 18,700 unaccompanied children and teenagers were taken into custody last month after crossing the border, including at port entries, nearly double the roughly 9,450 minors detained in February, the documents show.
About half of Republicans still do not accept the verified fact that conservative protesters, supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a poll released Monday.
Overall, 61 percent of Americans think Mr. Trump “is at least partly to blame for starting the deadly Jan. 6 riot” — but only 28 percent of Republicans agreed with that statement, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
And 55 percent of Republicans believe that the riot was started by “violent left-wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad.”
The F.B.I. has said there is no evidence to support those claims.
Moreover, six in 10 Republicans also believe Mr. Trump’s false assertion that the presidential election “was stolen” from him as result of widespread ballot fraud — while around 80 percent in the party want him to run again in 2024.
But only three of 10 independents, swing voters who sway the results of many tight races, had a favorable view of Trump, while 60 percent do not want Mr. Trump to run again. (The poll had a margin of error of about 4 percentage points.)
The survey, which was conducted online last week with responses from 1,005 adults around the country, is a vivid illustration of the effectiveness of misinformation efforts, echoed by right-wing social media.
Investigators, news outlets and congressional committees have demonstrated — with comprehensive and unmistakable visual, audio and documentary evidence — that the rioters who stormed the Capitol were supporters of Mr. Trump. They were chanting pro-Trump slogans, tried to find legislators they deemed hostile to the former president and were, in part, organized by far-right groups, including the Proud Boys.
Mr. Trump has downplayed his role in inciting the attack and recently told Fox News that the rioters posed “zero threat,” despite law enforcement agencies reporting injuries to at least 138 officers — 73 from the Capitol Police and 65 from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington. One Capitol Police officer, Brian D. Sicknick, was killed.
Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, have complained about the cordon of security around the complex, arguing that it is unnecessarily restrictive, while others have boasted about bypassing magnetometers installed outside the House chamber.
Dangers persist, however. On Friday, a man rammed into a security checkpoint near the Capitol, killing one officer and seriously injuring another. The man was shot and killed after jumping out of his car and lunging toward the officers with a knife.
On March 11, Delta Air Lines dedicated a building at its Atlanta headquarters to Andrew Young, the civil rights leader and former mayor. At the ceremony, Mr. Young spoke of the restrictive voting rights bill that Republicans were rushing through the Georgia state legislature. Then, after the speeches, Mr. Young’s daughter, Andrea, a prominent activist herself, cornered Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian.
“I told him how important it was to oppose this law,” she said.
For Mr. Bastian, it was an early warning that the issue of voting rights might soon ensnare Delta in another national dispute. Over the past five years, corporations have taken political stands like never before, often in response to the extreme policies of former President Donald J. Trump.
But for corporations, the dispute over voting rights is different. An issue that both political parties see as a priority is not easily addressed with statements of solidarity and donations. Taking a stand on voting rights legislation thrusts companies into partisan politics and pits them against Republicans who have proven willing to raise taxes and enact onerous regulations on companies that cross them politically.
It is a head-spinning new landscape for big companies, which are trying to appease Democrats focused on social justice, as well as populist Republicans who are suddenly unafraid to break ties with business. Companies like Delta are caught in the middle, and face steep political consequences no matter what they do.
“It was very hard under President Trump, and the business community was hoping that with a change of administration it might get a bit easier,” said Rich Lesser, the chief executive of Boston Consulting Group. “But business leaders are still facing challenges on how to navigate a range of issues, and the elections issue is among the most sensitive.”
At first, Delta, Georgia’s largest employer, tried to stay out of the fight on voting rights. But after the Georgia law was passed, a group of powerful Black executives publicly called on big companies to oppose the voting legislation. Hours later, Delta and Coca-Cola abruptly reversed course and disavowed the Georgia law. On Friday, Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta in protest, and more than 100 other companies spoke out in defense of voting rights.
The groundswell of support suggests that the Black executives’ clarion call will have an impact in the months ahead, as Republican lawmakers in more than 40 states advance restrictive voting laws. But already, the backlash has been swift, with Mr. Trump calling for boycotts of companies opposing such laws, and Georgia lawmakers voting for new taxes on Delta.
On Monday, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, charged that the actions were part of “a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people.”
“Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex,” he said. “Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.”
Mr. McConnell’s populism is situational. He has been a champion of tax cuts for large corporations for decades, and was a major force behind the push to roll back limits on political donations by the wealthy.
With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid.
The effort to rush more food assistance to more people is notable both for the scale of its ambition and the variety of its legislative and administrative actions. The campaign has increased food stamps by more than $1 billion a month, provided needy children a dollar a day for snacks, expanded a produce allowance for pregnant women and children, and authorized the largest children’s summer feeding program in history.
“We haven’t seen an expansion of food assistance of this magnitude since the founding of the modern food stamp program in 1977,” said James P. Ziliak, an economist at the University of Kentucky who studies nutrition programs. “It’s a profound change.”
While dollars and decisions are flowing from the Agriculture Department, the tone has been set by President Biden, who issued an executive order in January telling aides to “address the growing hunger crisis” and later lamented the car lines “half a mile each, just to get a box of food.”
The push reflects an extraordinary shift in the politics of poverty — driven, paradoxically, both by the spread of hardship to more working-class and white families and the growing recognition of poverty’s disproportionate toll on minorities. With hunger especially pronounced among Black and Latino households, vital to the Democrats’ coalition, the administration is framing its efforts not just as a response to pandemic needs but as part of a campaign for racial justice.
“This crisis has revealed how fragile many Americans’ economic lives are and also the inequities of who is struggling the most,” said Stacy Dean, who is leading the effort as a senior official at the Agriculture Department after a prominent career as an anti-hunger advocate. “It’s an incredibly painful picture, and it is even more so for communities of color.”
Like other policies being pursued by the White House — including a temporary child allowance that is expected to cut child poverty nearly in half — the effort to reduce hunger reflects a new willingness among Democrats to embrace an identity as poverty fighters that they once feared would alienate the middle class.
An ardent advocate of protecting some of the world’s poorest countries from Covid-19 has been selected to lead the Biden administration’s vaccine diplomacy in an effort to corral wealthier nations into distributing immunizations more evenly around the globe.
Gayle Smith, a former U.S. Agency for International Development administrator and chief executive of the ONE Campaign to eradicate poverty and preventable disease, will step into the role, a new post at the State Department.
With about 62 million people in the United States already fully vaccinated from Covid-19, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made a case on Monday for ensuring that more people are protected abroad.
“We have a duty to other countries to get the virus under control here in the United States,” Mr. Blinken said at the State Department. “But soon, the United States will need to step up our work and rise to the occasion worldwide. Because again, only by stopping Covid globally, will Americans be saved for the long term.”
Mr. Blinken said other nations have been asking the United States “with growing desperation” to share its vaccine supply. “We hear you, and I promise we’re moving as fast as possible,” he said.
Ms. Smith will be focused largely on trying to coordinate the international response, even as the virus mutates and threatens to extend the pandemic. So far, the United States has contributed or pledged $4 billion to Covax, the global vaccination drive, largely bound for low- and middle-income countries, and Congress last month approved $11 billion in efforts abroad to fight the pandemic on top of billions of dollars sent to foreign nations and nongovernmental organizations in the first year of the outbreak.
More than 665 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Yet China, India and Russia have already outpaced the United States in providing vaccines globally, as an instrument of diplomacy. Just last month, the ONE Campaign urged Mr. Biden to share 5 percent of its doses abroad when 20 percent of Americans have been vaccinated, and increase the doses globally as more people in the United States receive theirs. According to the group, the U.S. government has purchased 453 million excess vaccine doses.
Ms. Smith, who will receive her second vaccine shot on Tuesday, helped lead the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 that swept across borders in West Africa, and into the United States, while the World Health Organization was stunted by staffing cuts and other resources shortages. Officials said the U.N. agency has since fostered a stronger collaboration of scientists and health experts to better track diseases.
The Trump administration withdrew from the W.H.O. last year after it refused to blame China for failing to stop Covid-19 where it originated, but the United States has recommitted to working with the agency under President Biden.
“If the virus is moving faster than we are, it’s winning,” Ms. Smith said after Mr. Blinken announced her appointment on Monday. “But with unity of purpose, science, vigilance and leadership, we can outpace any virus.”
Mr. Blinken said there will be enough vaccines for all adults in the United States by the end of May, following the deaths of more than 550,000 Americans claimed by the virus since February 2020. More than 2.8 million people worldwide have been killed by the pandemic.
Other world leaders have begun to step up demands for wealthy nations to share vaccines with poorer countries; on Sunday, Pope Francis called the vaccines “an essential tool” to stop the pandemic.
Around 50 groups have filed amicus briefs in a coming Supreme Court case pitting charities against the state of California in a fight over donation disclosures. A new brief from 15 Democratic senators explained how untraceable donations, or “dark money,” make their way into politics through social welfare charities. The senators warned that siding with the charities will increase the political influence of wealthy individuals and corporations, the DealBook newsletter reports.
The case was brought by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a “social welfare” nonprofit affiliated with the Koch network, against the state, which requires charities to privately disclose major donors in tax documents. The foundation says that anonymity is protected by the First Amendment and that disclosure could expose donors to threats. An appeals court sided with California, however, and the foundation wants the justices to reverse the ruling.
The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 put a spotlight on corporations’ direct and indirect political donations; justices agreed on Jan. 8 to hear the case and arguments will take place later this month.
Business interests want to create a “broad expansion of dark money rights,” the senators’ brief stated, referring to untraceable donations that are often routed via nonprofit groups. The court case is an influence campaign disguised as a technical legal fight, the senators said. The Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers are among the trade groups supporting the foundation’s demand for anonymity.
Anonymous donors work like covert intelligence operations, the senators wrote. The donors give millions annually to charities that spend it in an effort to influence politics and policy. The senators pointed to congressional appropriations rules blocking disclosure efforts by the I.R.S. and S.E.C. over the past decade as evidence that the groups have swayed lawmakers behind the scenes. They also cite the number of amicus briefs filed as evidence of this issue’s significance, noting that briefs are an element of the business lobby’s influence campaigns.
The federal government is siding with California, more or less, telling the justices in a brief that the charities’ constitutional claim is wrong but that the case should be sent back to the lower courts for more analysis.