Biden’s First Budget Includes $1.52 Trillion in Domestic Spending

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Biden administration is proposing a 16 percent increase in federal spending on domestic priorities including education, fighting climate change and reducing poverty as part of a $1.52 trillion funding request the White House is sending to Congress on Friday.

The request, which comes on top of President Biden’s plans to seek trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending, is for the fiscal 2022 year, beginning in October. It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or spending on so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, all of which will be included in a formal budget request the White House will release later this spring.

But it lays out Mr. Biden’s priorities and shows his willingness to use the power — and purse-strings — of the federal government to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment by the government in the nation’s most pressing domestic problems.

The expansion includes a significant bump up in spending on education, including a $20 billion increase in funding to high-poverty schools, which the administration describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The budget would also dramatically increase government spending to fight and adapt to climate change, calling for an additional $14 billion above what the federal government spent in fiscal 2021. That spending would be infused across nearly every federal agency, from environment and science offices to the Pentagon, Treasury and transportation departments.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which came under sustained attack during the Trump administration, would also get a significant boost, with the White House requesting $11.2 billion — a $2 billion increase from the previous year’s enacted level — including about $110 million just to restore the hundreds of employees who left the agency in recent years.

The budget also reflected the increasing sense of urgency within the Biden administration to deter migration to the southern border, including $1.2 billion toward investing in border security technology, such as sensors to detect illegal crossings and tools to improve entry ports. It is also notable for what it does not include: No new funding for border wall construction — a commitment Mr. Biden had made.

Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to the White House budget, which is generally viewed as a political messaging document. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

Officials have promised that Mr. Biden’s full budget will be released later this spring. They have blamed delays on a lack of cooperation from outgoing members of the Trump administration.

“Well there’s no question, as we talked about during the transition, that we dealt with some impactful intransigence from the outgoing political appointees,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters this week.

“We had some cooperation from the career staff, but we didn’t have all of the information that we needed,” she added. “As you all know, we also don’t have a budget director. We have not had a budget director confirmed. We have now an acting budget director, which is an important step forward.”

Mr. Biden’s first pick to lead the budget office, Neera Tanden, withdrew from consideration amid Republican opposition centered on her past statements on Twitter that were critical of conservatives.

Shalanda D. Young, who was confirmed by the Senate last month to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director.

Coronavirus vaccines were administered in New Jersey this month. 
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

President Biden’s spending plan for foreign programs boosts support for two urgent challenges to the United States: curbing the pandemic and addressing a surge in mass migration from Central America.

It calls for $10 billion for global health programs — including, notably, $1 billion for security efforts to detect, prevent and respond to future pandemics. Officials said that amounted to a more than $800 million increase for global health security than the United States contributed last year.

It also would provide $861 million intended to combat corruption, prevent violence, reduce poverty and bolster economies in Central America in an attempt to curb the flow of thousands of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who head to the U.S. border with Mexico each year. The money would be the first tranche of a four-year plan to ultimately spend $4 billion to help stabilize those countries and end the migrants’ need to flee.

Thematically, the spending plans for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign programs reflect what Mr. Biden has long promised: to shore up American alliances around the globe.

The plans include full funding for United Nations health and human rights agencies, which was withheld under the Trump administration. The plans also cite efforts to counter authoritarian governments, specifically calling out China and Russia, while pledging to fully pay American commitments to longtime Middle East allies, including Israel and Jordan, where King Abdullah II said last week he faced a palace coup.

The spending plans also make clear that the Biden administration wants to work with Palestinian leaders on a long-term peace plan with Israel — another departure from the Trump administration, which engaged almost entirely with Israel.

Overall, the budget blueprint calls for $63.5 billion for the State Department and international programs — a nearly 12 percent increase from current spending levels of $56.7 billion. Officials said that will also include funds to grow the number of career diplomats and Civil Service employees.

The proposed budget would further the anti-discrimination agenda championed by Marcia L. Fudge, the housing secretary.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden is requesting a $9 billion increase in the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would represent the biggest year-to-year boost in the agency’s funding in over two decades.

The proposed increase comes on top of the $27.4 billion in new assistance included in the pandemic relief bill passed earlier this year, and the $213 billion slated for housing in the White House infrastructure plan.

Although the agency’s proposed funding increase, about 15 percent, is less dramatic than increases given to education and environmental agencies, few departments have seen such a reversal of fortunes under Mr. Biden.

Taken as a whole, the White House proposals represent a focused effort to transform an agency relegated to backwater status under President Donald J. Trump into a key player in Mr. Biden’s efforts to target structural racial and economic inequality, administration officials said.

The centerpiece of the plan unveiled on Friday is an expansion of federal housing assistance voucher programs, the main conduit for low-income housing funding. The administration is hoping to add an additional 200,000 families to the 2.3 million already receiving the aid. That alone would account for a $5.4 billion increase in H.U.D.’s annual budget.

The proposed budget would also further the anti-discrimination agenda championed by Marcia L. Fudge, the housing secretary, by funding “mobility-related supportive services” to make it easier for families to move into more racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods.

The plan also includes $500 million in additional funding for homelessness programs, which would target more than 100,000 additional households, including survivors of domestic violence and homeless youth. That funding is in addition to the $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers already provided in Mr. Biden’s pandemic relief bill.

The request would also provide $800 million in new investments across H.U.D. programs for modernization and rehabilitation aimed at energy efficiency and resilience to climate change crises “like increasingly frequent and severe wildfires and floods.”

Other increases include a $500 million expansion of the HOME program to construct and rehabilitate affordable rental housing; $180 million to support 2,000 units of new permanently affordable housing for the elderly and disabled; an increase of $295 million for community development block grants used to fund an array of anti-poverty initiatives; and a new $85 million allocation to support fair housing enforcement around the country.

H.U.D.’s budget largely flatlined under President Barack Obama, who faced pressure from Republicans to trim social welfare spending.

The department languished under Mr. Trump, seeing the mass departure of staff under the wavering leadership of Secretary Ben Carson, a former surgeon with little housing experience.

But its budget actually rose during his administration, as congressional Democrats and moderate Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, added billions to the agency’s budget over the objections of Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney.

President Biden visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last month.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s spending plan calls for an almost 25 percent increase in discretionary funding — to $131.7 billion — for the Health and Human Services Department, the hub of the federal government’s pandemic response.

That increase includes a $1.6 billion increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency public health experts have viewed as chronically underfunded and neglected until public health emergencies. Data collection would be modernized, and epidemiologists would be trained to support local health departments.

Almost a billion dollars would go to the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year.

The blueprint also calls for $6.5 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health — part of a requested $51 billion for the typically well-funded National Institutes of Health. The new agency would fund federal research, with a focus on cancer and diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Outside of pandemic response, the White House wants to expand spending in several areas that were also budget priorities for the Trump administration: fighting the opioid epidemic and eradicating H.I.V. and AIDS. But on other matters, it diverges clearly from Trump administration policies.

The Biden plan would expand spending on the Title X program that provides family planning services to low-income Americans — under Mr. Trump, that program was retooled to reduce the number of eligible providers. The proposal would also double spending on research into the causes of gun-related death and injury, an area long neglected because of political polarization.

But most health spending in the country is not discretionary, meaning the proposals do not tell us what the Biden administration hopes to do in Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, among other large programs. The American Rescue Plan included some short-term funding to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies that help Americans buy insurance, and the administration has signaled it hopes to make those changes permanent.

So far, Mr. Biden has been quiet about whether he will pursue other health initiatives that were part of his campaign, such as lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare or establishing a government-run alternative for private health insurance, known as a public option, for Obamacare users.

President Biden announced a study will be conducted into adjusting the Supreme Court.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden on Friday will order a 180-day study of adding seats to the Supreme Court, making good on a campaign-year promise to establish a bipartisan commission to examine the potentially explosive subjects of expanding the court or setting term limits for justices, White House officials said.

The president acted under pressure from activists pushing for more seats to alter the ideological balance of the court after President Donald J. Trump appointed three justices, including one to a seat that Republicans had blocked his predecessor, Barack Obama, from filling for almost a year.

The result is a court with a stronger conservative tilt, now 6 to 3, after the addition of Mr. Trump’s choices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before last year’s presidential election. (An earlier version misspelled Justice Ginsburg’s last name.)

But while Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asserted that the system of judicial nominations is “getting out of whack,” he has declined to say whether he supports altering the size of the court or making other changes — like imposing term limits — to the current system of lifetime appointments.

It is not clear that the commission established by Mr. Biden will by itself clarify his position. Under the White House order establishing it, the commission is not set to issue specific recommendations at the end of its study — an outcome that is likely to disappoint activists.

In his executive order on Friday, the president will create a 36-member commission charged with examining the history of the court, past changes to the process of nominating justices, and the potential consequences to altering the size of the nation’s highest court.

The panel will be led by Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel for Mr. Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel under Mr. Obama.

Progressives say that Republicans unfairly gained an advantage on the court by blocking Mr. Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland in 2016, and they see adding seats to the court, setting term limits or instituting other changes as a way to offset the power of any one president to influence its makeup. Conservatives have denounced the effort as “court-packing” similar to the failed effort by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

The issue of whether to alter the size of the court, which has been set at nine members since just after the Civil War, is highly charged, particularly when Congress is almost evenly divided between the two parties. An attempt by Mr. Biden to increase the number of justices would require approval of Congress and would be met by fierce opposition.

The Grand Hotel in Vienna this week, where diplomats from the European Union, China, Russia and Iran held talks on the Iran nuclear deal.
Credit…Joe Klamar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Talks in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration left in 2018 and which Tehran began breaking a year later made some progress this week: They didn’t break down.

Senior diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord were positive and would continue next week.

Although there are no direct talks between Iran and the United States, the other signatories to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — are engaging in a kind of shuttle diplomacy between them.

One working group is focusing on how to lift the harsh economic sanctions that the United States imposed that are inconsistent with the terms of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. The other working group is focusing on how Iran can return to the limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges to produce it under the terms of the deal.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian representative to the talks in Vienna, said in a Twitter message after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made.” The senior diplomats who meet in what is known as the Joint Commission — representing all signatories except the United States — will reconvene next week “in order to maintain the positive momentum,” Mr. Ulyanov said.

U.S. officials have worked to play down expectations for any quick breakthrough and have urged patience.

In what has been perceived as a gesture of good will, Iran on Friday released a South Korean oil tanker that had been held since January in a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul after the United States enacted punishing sanctions.

Senator Mitch McConnell excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats, before backpedaling.
Credit…Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

Barred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His instincts for red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely.

They are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books, the rights of transgender people and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a genial white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

Students participating in a home care health aide training program in Queens in January. Funding for the home care industry is part of the infrastructure wishlist from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

An influential bloc of Congressional progressives has produced a list of items they want added President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan — from the expansion of programs for the homeless to a bigger increase for Medicaid-funded home health care.

The 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus released their proposed revisions on Friday, in part, to counter Republicans who claim the American Jobs Plan includes too many programs that fall outside the traditional “road-bridge-rail-sewer” definition of infrastructure.

The group, which represents many of the party’s ascendant figures, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is also pushing Speaker Nancy Pelosi on legislative tactics.

They want to see the infrastructure and jobs legislation passed as a single package, while Ms. Pelosi, eager to fast-track the plan, is considering breaking the proposal into two parts, one for traditional infrastructure projects, the other for jobs and social welfare programs, to avoid parliamentary snags.

“It’s time to go big and it’s time to go bold,” the caucus chairwoman, Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, said in a statement.

The progressives want to see even greater funding increases to anti-poverty, health care and housing programs than Mr. Biden has already proposed, but their proposal is not radically different than the president’s. The plan was first reported by Politico.

At the core of the caucus blueprint is a $450 billion request for an expansion of Medicaid to pay for greatly increase federally subsidized caregiving services for older and disabled Americans, $50 billon more than Mr. Biden’s $400 billion proposal. They are also demanding that the home health care jobs, which currently pay about $12 an hour, be mandated to provide a minimum wage of $15 an hour and be eligible for union membership.

The caucus is also calling for significant increases for affordable housing, including allocating $70 million to renovate crumbling public housing buildings. That is $30 billion more than the White House had slated to eliminate a repair backlog that has left many tenants living in substandard conditions for years.

Mr. Biden has proposed allocating $213 billion to improve existing affordable housing and to expand subsidy programs for low-income families and the homeless.

The caucus is pushing for a major change in the way that housing assistance is given to the poor: making federal vouchers, used to pay landlords, a mandatory budget item not subject to the year-by-year whims of Congress.

In addition, the caucus members are calling for Mr. Biden to expand weatherization and energy-efficiency upgrades in public housing, above what he has already proposed.

The caucus wish list also includes a slate of broader proposals on immigration, drug pricing and climate change, in line with the agenda put forward in the Green New Deal and other proposals.

White House officials and Ms. Pelosi’s spokesman did not immediately return requests for comment.

Tally of Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes

Either side needed 1,521 votes to win.

A total of 505 ballots were challenged; 76 were void.·Source: National Labor Relations Board

Amazon beat back the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the counting of ballots in the closely watched effort showed on Friday.

A total of 738 workers voted “Yes” to unionize and 1,798 voted “No.” There were 76 ballots marked as void and 505 votes were challenged, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The union leading the drive to organize, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said most of the challenges were from Amazon.

About 50 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse cast ballots in the election. Either side needed to receive more than 50 percent of all cast ballots to prevail.

The ballots were counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.

The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote — “Yes” for a union or “No” — for nearly four hours on Thursday.

Sophia June and Miles McKinley contributed to this report.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed an anti-transgender bill only to be overridden by the legislature.
Credit…Jim Young/Reuters

In recent weeks, a number of Republican state legislatures have introduced bills placing new restrictions on transgender rights and medical care.

One of the farthest-reaching measures passed in Arkansas this week, prohibiting gender-confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youths — the first such ban to become law anywhere in the country.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, opposed the bill, after supporting other laws limiting transgender rights. He has been making the case that the legislation not only violates conservative principles but could also hurt Republicans politically.

The Times spoke to the governor about the new law, his belief that Republicans are too enmeshed in the culture wars and whether the party has strayed from fundamental conservative values.

In the interview, Mr. Hutchinson criticized the bill as “the most extreme law in the country.”

“The bill is overbroad, it’s extreme and, very importantly, it does not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment, which means that those in Arkansas who are undergoing, under the doctor’s care and parents’ care, hormonal treatment — that would be withdrawn in the middle of that,” Mr. Hutchinson said.

He added, “That’s a terrible consequence of this bill. This is the most extreme law in the country. Arkansas would be the first state to have adopted this bill. And I could not in good conscience sign it with concerns that I had.”

But he defended his signing of two other bills: one barring trans women and girls from participating in sports competitions consistent with their gender identity, and another allowing doctors to refuse to treat trans patients because of religious or moral objections.

“You’ve got to evaluate each one as to whether it’s the proper role of government, whether it makes sense and whether it is the right balance,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “When I saw this third bill come forward, I thought it went too far. And I said: ‘We’ve got to show greater tolerance. We’ve got to show greater compassion.’ And so I didn’t sign that.

Mr. Hutchinson also warned that pushing laws restricting trans rights could hurt the Republican Party with young voters.

“The risk for the party, is that particularly millennials, young people, they want to see more tolerance. They do not believe in judging someone else and making laws that make their lives more difficult,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “And so while the transgender community is very small, there’s a larger group that does not like the government picking on them. And that’s where we lose in the broader population — reflecting intolerance and reflecting a lack of diversity.”

He added, “If you’re going to be a broad-based party, you have to be true to your principles. And it starts with a restraint on government action.”