President Biden on Thursday welcomed news that gas has begun flowing through a critical pipeline that was shut down by the company over the weekend after a ransomware attack by hackers, but he said that it will take time to resolve gas shortages along the East Coast and he warned stations not to engage in price gouging.
“They should be reaching full operational capacity as we speak, as I speak to you right now,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the Roosevelt Room. “That is good news. But we want to be clear, we will not feel the effects at the pump immediately. This is not like flicking on a light switch.”
The president said he had “no comment” on reports that Colonial Pipeline had paid a $5 million ransom to a group of hackers based in Russia to restore operations on the 5,500-mile pipeline. But he said the United States will pursue “a measure to disrupt their ability to operate” against Darkside, the group behind the Colonial hack.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, later said that it is the “position of the federal government” that it is not in the interests of “companies to pay ransom, because it incentivizes these actions.”
But she refused to criticize Colonial by name, adding it was “not constructive” to single out any particular company.
The United States has the ability to turn its offensive cyberweapons against ransomware operators. Cyber Command, the military’s still-new force of cyberwarriors, went after TrickBot last fall, another ransomware group, to keep it from selling its services to groups seeking to disrupt the 2020 presidential election.
Mr. Biden noted that Darkside is based in Russia, but he said American intelligence agencies do not believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia or the Russian government were involved in the attack on the pipeline.
“I am confident that I read the report of the F.B.I. accurately. And they say, they were not, he was not. The government was not,” the president said.
Ms. Psaki, however, said that Russia bears “some responsibility” for hosting the group and allowing it to launch attacks against the U.S.
For the Biden White House, the attack on the Colonial Pipeline has many elements of peril: Political peril as Americans along the East Coast line up to get gas; economic peril as the administration worries about the temporary effects on air travel and chemical production; and technological peril as experts try to figure out how a ransomware attack turned into a national security event.
Mr. Biden sought to address all three issues Thursday. He said his administration had eased regulations to allow companies to deliver gas more easily in the affected regions and eased environmental rules temporarily to provide flexibility for gas companies.
He also urged American in the affected regions to avoid panicked buying of gasoline.
“This is a temporary situation. Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days,” he said, adding that “We expect the situation to begin to improve by the weekend and into early next week, and gasoline supply is coming back online, and panic buying will only slow the process.”
The president also mentioned the administration’s executive order on cybersecurity that was published on Wednesday night, which sets security standards for any company that is looking to sell software to the federal government.
“I cannot dictate that the private companies do certain things relative to cybersecurity,” Mr. Biden told reporters. But he said that “I think it’s becoming clear to everyone that we have to do more than being done now and the federal government can be significant value added.”
Mr. Biden said the attack on the pipeline should underscore the need for the United States to improve its critical infrastructure, and urged lawmakers to back his $2.3 trillion proposal to rebuild roads, bridges, pipelines and other projects.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jill Biden, the first lady, landed in West Virginia just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that vaccinated Americans could, for the most part, remove their masks. So, just before she disembarked from her plane, she did.
After weeks of murky guidance from the C.D.C. on what vaccinated Americans can and can’t do, the sight of a maskless first lady went far to clear up confusion — at least in Charleston, where she visited a vaccine clinic for children set up inside a local high school.
“We feel naked!” Dr. Biden said to a group of junior Army officers who had gathered to greet her. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
It was a surreal and memorable moment that underscored in a very public way just how strange these past million or so months have been. Back in Washington, officials in the Biden White House (quite literally) were able to breath freely again as, one by one, masks began to come off.
At the White House, a maskless President Biden struck a more statesmanlike tone when he addressed the public in the Rose Garden.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and C.D.C. announced that they’re no longer recommending that fully vaccinated people need wear masks,” Mr. Biden said. “This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside. I think it’s a great milestone, a great day.”
At an earlier meeting on infrastructure, held in the Oval Office with a bipartisan group of senators, Mr. Biden — whose advisers were so strict about masks that they were known to police private meetings — stripped off his face covering, and so did the senators, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia told reporters.
In the past, Mr. Biden would only go mask-free around family members and his closest advisers — at least, until they were instructed by more stringent advisers, including Ron Klain, the chief of staff, to put their masks back on, a senior administration official said.
In the West Wing, officials, who have refrained from holding large in-person meetings together, began removing their masks as the administration issued new guidance for anyone on the complex: Anyone who had received their last required vaccine dose at least 14 days earlier could now go mask-free.
And in more dramatic corners of the capital, other lawmakers celebrated the new guidance.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to reporters as he addressed them without a mask for the first time in months: “Free at last.”
On the road in Charleston, Dr. Biden, accompanied by Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, did their part to motivate the public. Once on the ground, Mr. Manchin immediately got to work speaking into a succession of local news cameras.
“You’ve all seen the latest from the C.D.C.? That means no masks inside or outside,” Mr. Manchin said to a group of reporters.
“What does that mean for the people of West Virginia?” a reporter asked.
“It means get vaccinated!” Mr. Manchin said. “We feel free.”
It didn’t hurt their cause that the actress Jennifer Garner, who grew up in the state, appeared alongside them for the visit. Ms. Garner, who had shown up to the airport in Charleston wearing a mask, quickly stripped it off as she saw the first lady descend the plane steps.
As she toured the high school with Dr. Biden, Mr. Manchin, and his wife, Gayle, Ms. Garner smiled, mask-free, at a set of starry-eyed high school students.
“I kind of can’t believe that I’m standing here without a mask on looking at maskless faces,” Ms. Garner said to a group in the school’s gymnasium.
All around her, people began removing masks from their faces, their smiles again visible.
Representative Chip Roy of Texas, a strident conservative, will run against Representative Elise Stefanik of New York for the No. 3 House Republican leadership position, a move of protest reflecting unhappiness among hard-right lawmakers with the congresswoman party leaders anointed to replace Representative Liz Cheney.
Mr. Roy’s decision, reported earlier by Politico and confirmed by two officials familiar with the plans, comes as the Texas Republican, a former chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz, also of Texas, had vented frustration about what he cast as Ms. Stefanik’s insufficient conservative credentials and party leaders’ rush to install her shortly after deposing Ms. Cheney for her unwillingness to stay quiet about former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies.
Republicans are scheduled to meet Friday morning to select Ms. Cheney’s replacement as chair of the House Republican Conference.
With Mr. Trump and House Republicans’ top two leaders backing Ms. Stefanik’s bid, it is unlikely that Mr. Roy’s candidacy could derail her ascension to the No. 3 post. But it is a sign of the internal discord in the conference prompted by the decision among party leaders to depose Ms. Cheney for her repeated efforts to call out Mr. Trump’s repeated myth of a stolen election.
Mr. Roy had circulated a remarkable three-page broadside on Tuesday scrutinizing the voting record of Ms. Stefanik — who was named one of the most bipartisan members of Congress before morphing into a strident Trump ally — and arguing that top Republicans were racing to elevate a lawmaker who he said did not reflect “our conservative values.”
“We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats’ agenda once sworn in,” Mr. Roy wrote.
Mr. Roy voted to certify President Biden’s electoral win in January, and led a group of conservatives in the House who released a lengthy statement arguing against the effort and casting the challenge to the election as an attempt to “unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process” that would amount to “stealing power from the people and the states.”
A week after the top Senate Republican described himself as “100 percent focused” on stopping President Biden’s agenda, Senator Shelley Moore Capito will meet with the president on Thursday with a different strategy in mind.
“Maybe by working together, and accomplishing something together, we get a mutual win here — particularly a win for the country,” said Ms. Capito, a West Virginia Republican who is scheduled to lead a group of a half-dozen Republicans in an afternoon meeting with Mr. Biden at the White House to discuss the possibilities for an infrastructure compromise.
The comment from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, delivered in his home state, was a harsh reminder of the tricky politics Ms. Capito is navigating as the Republican responsible for figuring out if there is a bipartisan compromise to be had with Mr. Biden on a major infrastructure and public works plan.
But if such a deal is to be struck on a substantial infrastructure package this year, Ms. Capito, 67, a close ally of Mr. McConnell’s, will most likely be leading it.
Mr. Biden has proposed a $4 trillion plan, including $2.3 trillion (not $2.3 billion, as an earlier post said) for projects like roads, bridges, pipelines and other initiatives that have traditionally dominated infrastructure packages and a huge expansion of safety net programs. He has labeled those programs critical “human infrastructure” initiatives and would pay for them with tax increases on corporations and high earners. Ms. Capito has drafted a blueprint for a counteroffer that would devote a small fraction of that amount — $568 billion — with little detail about how it would be financed.
Ms. Capito has spoken with Mr. Biden in recent days and dispatched her staff to talk to White House aides about reconciling her framework with the president’s.
“The first indication that Lucy is going to pull the football is if she quits talking to you, and we’re still talking daily,” Ms. Capito said.
In a series of interviews across her state last week, Ms. Capito acknowledged steep challenges in reaching a deal with Mr. Biden to deliver such legislation.
Mr. McConnell has repeatedly raised $600 billion as an acceptable price tag, and Republicans have refused to consider tax increases that would reverse the deep cuts they pushed through as part of the 2017 tax law. Several Democrats, for their part, have dismissed Ms. Capito’s plan as paltry given the nation’s infrastructure needs.
Moderates including Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, are pushing to find a compromise and have applauded, if not fully endorsed, Ms. Capito’s efforts. She readily concedes that her efforts could fall flat without a compromise that Democrats would be willing to accept — or if Republicans refuse to coalesce behind one, leaving Democrats to conclude it would be futile to winnow down the size of their plan in search of a bipartisan deal.
Privately, Ms. Capito said, Mr. McConnell is “telling me to move forward, he’s telling me to negotiate in good faith.” But his public remark “did sound a little…,” she trailed off with a chuckle.
“I thought, now I’m going to go into the president and go, ‘Well, here we are to negotiate!’”
President Biden and his economic team are pushing their most detailed case yet for trillions of dollars in new federal spending to rebuild public investment in workers, research and physical infrastructure, focusing on long-term ingredients of economic growth and equality even as the current recovery from recession shows signs of distress.
In a new document from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Biden’s team casts his $4 trillion economic agenda as a way to correct decades of tax-cutting policies that have failed to boost the middle class. Instead, the administration is pushing a rebuilding of public investment, like infrastructure, research and education, as the best way to fuel economic growth and improve families’ lives.
The document provides a deeper economic backbone for arguments that Mr. Biden has made publicly and privately to sell his plans to lawmakers, including his expected comments to a group of Republican senators he has invited to the White House on Thursday to negotiate over an infrastructure package.
It also reflects the administration’s longer-term thinking on economic policy at a time when conservatives have ramped up criticism of the president over slowing job growth and accelerating inflation. Republicans continue to insist that tax cuts, particularly for business, are the key to economic competitiveness and middle-class prosperity. They have refused to negotiate any changes to their party’s signature 2017 tax law as part of an infrastructure agreement, even as they concede some need for a limited version of the new public investments Mr. Biden is calling for.
Administration officials express confidence that recent price surges in used cars, airfare and other sectors of the economy will prove temporary, and that job growth will speed up again as more working-aged Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19 and regain access to child care during work hours. They say Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid package, the “American Rescue Plan,” which he signed in March, will lift job growth in the months to come — and that it is appropriate for the president to look past the current crisis and push efforts to strengthen the economy long-term.
The Biden administration on Thursday moved to repeal a Trump-era regulation that it said weakened the government’s ability to curb air pollution that threatens public health and is driving climate change.
Critics said the regulation distorted the costs of reducing air pollution while diminishing the associated benefits. It is one of several Trump administration policies that have been reversed by Michael S. Regan since he became the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in March.
Finalized at the end of the Trump administration, the so-called cost-benefit rule was designed to change how the E.P.A. calculated the economic costs and benefits of new clean-air and climate-change rules. Agency economists would have been required to calculate the public health benefits that stem directly from a new regulation and separately the value of ancillary benefits, or “co-benefits” — such as the reduction of pollutants not directly governed by the regulation. Direct benefits and “co-benefits” would have to be presented as separate categories.
Experts said that requirement appeared designed to give industries a way to legally block the E.P.A. over future air pollution rules. It would have also allowed the E.P.A. to avoid putting a price tag on certain health benefits if the scientific evidence was deemed limited.
“Revoking this unnecessary and misguided rule is proof positive of this administration’s commitment to science,” Mr. Regan said in a statement. He said his agency would “continue to fix the wrongs of the past.”
The policy had been long sought by the fossil fuel industry, which argued for years that the federal government used unfair economic formulas that resulted in burdensome pollution regulations.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — On a prairie hill on the rolling highway into Wyoming’s capital city looms a billboard with the beaming face of the state’s lone congressional representative, Liz Cheney. In huge letters it declares: “Thank you Rep. Cheney for defending the Constitution.”
Some local Republicans see Ms. Cheney’s lonesome stand against former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and her refusal to back down, as an example of true Wyoming grit and independence.
But many others are quick to point out that the billboard was put up by an out-of-state dark money group, a sign of outsiders meddling. And among locals in this state that voted in a landslide for Mr. Trump, few are thankful for much of anything Ms. Cheney has done lately, and have vowed to vote her out of office.
“She broke our trust. I won’t vote for her again,” said James Crestwell as he sat on the front steps of his small Craftsman house in the central part of town on Wednesday.
Wyoming is rich in coal and other fossil fuels, and mining and drilling are major sources of jobs and tax revenue. President Trump championed those industries and loosened mineral leasing regulations. Under President Biden, who temporarily paused oil and mineral leases on federal land and has vowed to move the nation away from fossil fuels, the industry faces a more uncertain future. It’s hard for many locals to stomach criticism of a president who they say stood up for their values.
Mr. Crestwell, 50, who works at the local veterans’ hospital, voted for both Mr. Trump and Ms. Cheney, and said it was a mistake for her to criticize the former president. “Trump’s been good for us in Wyoming. Supported coal and oil,” he said. “She seems like she’s more for Washington than Wyoming — like she’s trying to impress her powerful friends there.”
The Biden administration has quietly approached congressional Democrats about a potential change to their high-profile but long-shot effort to transform most of the District of Columbia into the nation’s 51st state, according to executive and legislative branch officials.
The bill, which passed the House last month but faces steep odds in the Senate, would admit the residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia as a new state and leave behind a rump federal enclave encompassing the seat of government, including the Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, other federal buildings and monuments.
The deliberations center on the Constitution’s 23rd Amendment, which gives three Electoral College votes in presidential elections to the seat of government. If the bill passes, it is not clear how many, if any, potential voters would be left there. The only residence in the rump federal enclave would be the White House; presidential families traditionally choose to vote in their home states, but nothing forces them to do so. In theory, homeless people might also claim residency in the envisioned enclave.
If the amendment is not repealed after any statehood, the bill would try to block the appointment of the three presidential electors. But the administration is said to have proposed instead giving them to the winner of the popular vote.
Officials familiar with the discussion spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the political delicacy of the matter as Republicans continue to raise legal and policy objections to granting statehood to the District of Columbia’s 700,000 residents. Such a step would create two additional Senate seats that Democrats would most likely win, as well as grant a vote to the lone representative in the House.
If political conditions ever shift enough that the Senate someday approves granting statehood to the District of Columbia, Republican-controlled states are widely expected to sue to challenge its constitutionality. Though the White House endorsed the statehood bill in late April, officials said that how best to navigate the 23rd Amendment if it is not repealed has given the administration’s legal team greatest pause.
A White House lawyer acknowledged the interbranch dialogue among Democrats, saying: “Admitting D.C. as a state is comfortably within Congress’ power — arguments to the contrary are unfounded. But we also think there are ways to allay the concerns that have been raised, and that’s why we’re working with Congress to make the bill as strong as possible.”
Missouri will not move forward on a voter-approved Medicaid expansion after the state’s Legislature decided not to fund the program.
The expansion was expected to cover more than 200,000 low-income residents. The rejection comes as the Biden administration is encouraging more states to join the program, with generous incentive payments included in the most recent stimulus package.
Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative last summer that would have the state join the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Voters passed the measure by almost seven percentage points, and July 2021 was to be the program’s start date.
But the state still needed to secure funding. States that expand Medicaid pay 10 percent of the costs, and the federal government picks up the rest.
Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, a Republican, opposed the measure. But he still included money to fund the program in his January budget proposal. The Republican majorities in both the General Assembly and State Senate voted against that spending.
“Without a revenue source or funding authority from the General Assembly, we are unable to proceed with the expansion at this time,” Governor Parson said in a statement Thursday.
The decision is likely to face litigation from Medicaid expansion supporters, who contend that the state constitution requires the program to go forward this summer.
Six states have expanded Medicaid with ballot initiatives, a strategy by progressive groups to expand coverage in places where state governments are opposed. Signature-gathering efforts are now underway in South Dakota and Mississippi to get similar ballot initiatives in front of voters next year.
The ballot initiatives have a strong track record with voters, passing in all but one state (Montana) where they’ve been tried. But the method has drawbacks. After initiatives pass, governors often delay or alter the programs, or simply refuse to implement them. After seeing Medicaid ballots succeed elsewhere, some states have sought to change the ballot initiative process, with tougher requirements to get on the ballot.
Gov. Paul LePage of Maine said he “would go to jail” before expanding Medicaid. The program did not start enrolling members until the state elected a new governor, Janet Mills, a Democrat, in 2018.
As she arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday morning to meet her fate, the soon-to-be deposed No. 3 Republican in the House hinted that she was already eyeing her next role.
“The party is going to come back stronger, and I’m going to lead the effort to do it,” Representative Liz Cheney said as she stepped into an elevator and down to her demise.
Less than an hour later, accompanied by the acclaimed photographer David Hume Kennerly, a family friend, Ms. Cheney returned to her office for an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. A sit-down with Bret Baier of Fox News was to follow.
The message was unmistakable: Her colleagues may have stripped Ms. Cheney of her post as chair of the House Republican Conference, but they have effectively handed her a new platform and a new role as the leader of the small band of anti-Trump Republicans.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, was trying to address a short-term challenge, and in a narrow sense he was successful. He will no longer have to contend with a member of his leadership team who, much to the consternation of him and his colleagues, continues to condemn former President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.
By excommunicating Ms. Cheney from her position, however, Republican lawmakers have created a host of new problems for their party.
They have underscored the grip that the increasingly unpopular Mr. Trump retains on their ranks; demoralized Republicans and independents who want to move on from his tenure; and, perhaps most significantly, emboldened a household-name conservative to take her case against Trumpism far beyond a Capitol conference room.
House Republicans knew what they had done as soon as they emerged from their meeting.
“That’s what it looks like when somebody is running for president,” Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama muttered to colleagues as they quickly walked past Ms. Cheney during her remarks in front of the cameras.
Other long-serving members, though, were more sobered by the divisions Mr. Trump is still sowing among Republicans and by the megaphone they had just handed Ms. Cheney.
“I don’t think it’s a healthy moment for the party,” said Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, himself a former member of Republican leadership. “I do think it enhanced Liz’s stature and position in a way that furthers her message but to the disadvantage of the broader party.”
As Ms. Cheney discovered, Republican leaders will continue to bow to Mr. Trump as long as they’re worried that their rank-and-file voters will punish them for disloyalty.
This could prove ominous for Republicans in the most competitive districts and states: They may not be able to survive a primary without him, but they may prove unelectable if they’re linked too closely to him.
“There’s not a lot of good options,” said Brendan Buck, a former House Republican leadership aide.
A major in the Marine Corps was arrested on Thursday and accused of assaulting police officers during the riot at the Capitol, the first known active-duty service member to be charged in connection with the attack.
Prosecutors said that Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, who is stationed at a Marine base in Quantico, Va., violently entered the Capitol after pushing through a line of officers guarding the East Rotunda doors. Once inside, court papers say, Major Warnagiris, 40, used his body to prop the doors open and helped pull other rioters inside. When the Capitol Police attempted to close the doors, the papers said, Major Warnagiris shoved them in “an effort to maintain his position.”
Major Warnagiris has been stationed at Quantico since last summer, prosecutors said, and was brought to the attention of authorities after someone he had worked with in 2019 called the F.B.I. Investigators subsequently went to Quantico where another colleague identified him in wanted photos and from video footage taken during the riot, prosecutors said.
About 40 former members of the military, including at least one Special Forces operator, have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack. Last month, Pentagon officials announced a new initiative to weed out extremism among service members.
Prosecutors said they were not seeking to detain Major Warnagiris before trial, and he was released after a hearing in federal court in Virginia.