Joe Biden

News, Analysis and Opinion from POLITICO

  1. Education

    $50K of student loan forgiveness would wipe out federal debt for 36M, new data shows

    The data provides granular insight into how sweeping student loan forgiveness would affect the federal government’s $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio.

    More than 36 million Americans would have their federal student loans completely erased if the Biden administration were to accede to progressive demands to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower, according to new data from the Education Department.

    The federal data was released on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who requested the information from the agency earlier this month.

    Impact: If the federal government were to cancel that amount, 36 million of the 45 million federal student loan borrowers — roughly 80 percent — would have their debt completely eliminated, according to the data. That includes 9.8 million of the 10.3 million federal student loan borrowers who were either in default or more than three months delinquent on their debt at the end of 2019.

    Key context: Warren and other Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have been pressing President Joe Biden to use executive authority to cancel student loan debt. The Biden administration has said it’s reviewing the issue.

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  2. Congress

    Almost all of New York's House Democrats draw a hard line on state and local tax deductions

    The powerful bloc wrote to House leaders as negotiations intensified across Washington this week on Biden’s next major legislative priority.

    Nearly every Democrat in New York’s House delegation said Tuesday that they won’t back tax hikes to fund President Joe Biden's infrastructure package without a full repeal of the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

    That powerful bloc, representing 17 out of 19 Democrats in the delegation, sent a letter to House leaders to outline their position on the issue, known as SALT, as negotiations intensified across Washington this week on Biden’s next major legislative priority.

    “We stand ready to work with you on this critical issue, and we will not hesitate to oppose any tax legislation that does not fully restore the SALT deduction,” the New Yorkers' letter, led by Reps. Jerry Nadler and Tom Suozzi, reads.

    Every Empire State House Democrat except Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kathleen Rice signed the letter, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

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  3. Coronavirus

    Biden officials bracing for possibility of weekslong disruption to J&J vaccine supply

    Federal health officials advised a temporary pause in use of the vaccine after six reports of severe blood clots among more than 6 million people who got the shot.

    Biden administration officials are preparing for the possibility that the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine could last for weeks — and perhaps longer for certain portions of the American population.

    “It's going to be more like days to weeks, rather than weeks to months," Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday at a White House briefing. His remarks came hours after the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the break, citing six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot among the 6.8 million Americans who have received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

    Fauci declined to speculate on whether use of the shot would be restricted or if the vaccine could be pulled from the market, saying that such discussions were premature.

    But two senior administration officials told POLITICO that the Biden administration is preparing for a potentially lengthy disruption in use of the J&J vaccine, particularly for certain groups — such as women ages 18-48, who make up all of the known clotting cases. The CDC is waiting for its independent vaccine advisory panel to make a determination on Wednesday about whether and how to restrict eligibility for the J&J shot, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a more thorough discussion of the issue.

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  4. White House

    Biden tells family of 'hero' Capitol Police officer killed in car attack: 'He’s in your blood'

    “I have some idea what you’re feeling like,” the president told the officer’s widow.

    Updated

    President Joe Biden eulogized fallen Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans at a memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, reflecting on his own personal tragedies as he sought to comfort Evans’ surviving wife and children.

    Standing before Evans’ flag-draped casket — which rested on the historic catafalque constructed to support Abraham Lincoln’s coffin in 1865 — the president told the officer’s widow that “I have some idea what you’re feeling like.”

    He went on to quote a verse from the 19th century American poet Robert Ingersoll that was read upon the death of Biden’s eldest son, Beau, in 2015.

    “When will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns compromise with death, this is heroism,” Biden said. “Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero. And he’s part of you. He’s in your blood.”

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  5. defense

    Biden to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

    The move will likely prompt the Taliban to renew attacks on American forces there, which have largely halted since the February 2020 agreement.

    President Joe Biden plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, missing the May 1 deadline he inherited from the Trump administration, according to two congressional aides and a senior administration official briefed on the plans.

    The decision, which Biden is expected to announce this week, will likely prompt the Taliban to renew attacks on the roughly 3,500 American troops there, which have largely halted since the February 2020 agreement between the Trump administration and Taliban officials.

    The news comes just weeks after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made his first visit to Afghanistan, where he met with U.S. officials on the ground and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

    The Washington Post first reported the withdrawal news.

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  6. Foreign Policy

    Biden suggests summit meeting on call with Putin

    The two leaders also discussed Russia's military buildup and ongoing tension with Ukraine

    President Joe Biden proposed a potential meeting "in the coming months" with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a call between the two leaders on Tuesday.

    Biden suggested a summit meeting “in a third country,” according to a summary of the call released by the White House. It did not include Putin’s reaction to the offer.

    It was one of several topics raised during the conversation, according to the readout. The White House said that Biden “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” amid rising tensions between that country and Russia.

    The Russian military has built up its military presence in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine, raising concerns among the U.S. and its allies of a potential conflict. Russia has stationed the highest number of troops along Ukraine’s border since 2014, and leaders there have been mulling how to respond to the moves from Moscow — including whether to deploy U.S.-manufactured weapons.

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  7. Defense

    Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

    That amount is still short of weapons grade.

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, higher than the program ever has before though still short of weapons grade, after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, an Iranian negotiator said Tuesday.

    The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected of having been carried out by Israel. It could result in further action by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and further raise tensions across the Mideast.

    Already earlier in the day, Iran’s foreign minister had warned that the weekend assault could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for relief on sanctions.

    “We believe that this round of negotiations is the time for the U.S. to present a list. I hope that I can go back to Tehran with the list of sanctions that will be lifted,” nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi said in Vienna, where the talks have been taking place. “Otherwise, I don’t believe we can continue like this. Otherwise, I believe this would be a waste of time.”

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  8. elections

    Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling

    Five of the biggest Democratic firms have signed onto a joint statement that seeks to explain what went wrong in last year’s election.

    A group of top Democratic Party pollsters are set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” in their 2020 polling — errors that left party officials stunned by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November.

    In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong last year and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Joe Biden well ahead of former President Donald Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.

    “Twenty-twenty was an ‘Oh, s---' moment for all of us,” said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. “And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right."

    That’s about where the answers end. The collaboration’s first public statement acknowledges that their industry “saw major errors and failed to live up to our own expectations.” But the memo also underscores the limits of the polling autopsy, noting that “no consensus on a solution has emerged.”

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  9. Trade

    Why the president can’t quickly solve the computer chip shortage

    A White House summit on the semiconductor shortage lays bare the idled factories, lack of infrastructure and geopolitical complications that Biden must navigate to address the issue.

    President Joe Biden faces an inconvenient reality as he tackles the political and economic headaches caused by a global shortage of chips needed to build computers, medical devices and automobiles: There’s no immediate fix.

    Biden on Monday told CEOs gathered virtually at the White House for a meeting on the problem that he has bipartisan support to boost funding for U.S. semiconductor manufacturing. But the results of that effort would take years to manifest and would do little to address the crunch in the near term.

    “We've been falling behind on research and development and manufacturing,” Biden told the business leaders. “We have to step up our game.”

    The Biden administration previously pledged to enlist the help of foreign allies that produce semiconductors, such as Taiwan and Japan. The White House has confirmed that Biden will broach the subject on Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his visit to Washington.

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  10. Transportation

    Biden woos GOP with sweet infrastructure words, but is it progress?

    Republican opposition to fundamental aspects of his more than $2 trillion infrastructure proposal is continuing to harden, making substantive compromise look unlikely.

    President Joe Biden called a handful of lawmakers to the White House Monday to talk about infrastructure for nearly two hours, the latest phase of his charm offensive, embarked upon as Congress returns from its recess and turns to the chore of grinding out an actual bill.

    And even though Biden apparently said the right things during Monday's bipartisan Oval Office confab, Republican opposition to fundamental aspects of his more than $2 trillion infrastructure proposal is continuing to harden, making substantive compromise look unlikely.

    Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), top Republican of the Senate Commerce Committee, told reporters after the meeting that Biden was "highly engaged" and that the meeting went "well." Despite that, Wicker said parts of Biden's infrastructure package are simply not going to fly, particularly the tax increase which he said will be “almost impossible to sell.”

    Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a high-ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, said in an interview that Biden struck the right notes.

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  11. Exclusive

    Biden to nominate Wormuth to be first female Army secretary

    The former top policy official at the Defense Department during the Obama administration, would be the first known pick by Biden to fill the three open civilian service secretary slots.

    President Joe Biden plans to nominate Pentagon veteran Christine Wormuth to be the first female Army secretary, the White House announced on Monday.

    Wormuth, a former top policy official at the Defense Department during the Obama administration, recently led Biden’s Pentagon agency review team through one of the most contentious transitions in modern history, and has been in and out of the Pentagon since she began her public service career in the policy office in 1996.

    Wormuth took over stewardship of the transition team from Kathleen Hicks, who bowed out to focus on the confirmation process after she was nominated to be the Pentagon’s No. 2. Wormuth also served as a co-chair of a defense working group on the Biden campaign.

    After a stint at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Wormuth returned to the Pentagon as a political appointee working on homeland defense in early 2009. In 2010, she moved to the National Security Council, where she directed defense policy and strategy, before returning once more to the Pentagon as deputy under secretary of defense for strategy, plans and force development in 2012. In that position, she led the department’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. She rose to hold the Pentagon's top policy job in 2014.

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  12. Foreign policy

    Iran, U.S. signal nuclear talks will resume despite alleged Israeli attack

    Iran vowed revenge on Israel after the blackout at its Natanz nuclear facility.

    United States and Iranian officials appear determined to resume nuclear talks this week in Vienna, despite an alleged weekend attack on an Iranian atomic facility that Tehran blamed on Israel.

    Israel has not publicly admitted or denied a role in the explosion and blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility. A U.S. official told POLITICO there were no indications in intelligence reports that Israel was coordinating such an operation with the U.S., and it seemed unlikely that Israel had notified American officials beforehand. But a person familiar with the issue warned that while plans for an Israeli attack were certainly not widely known in the U.S. government, it’s still possible that there was a notification, possibly a veiled one, at some level.

    Israel has a long history of staging attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, which it views as an existential threat. Israel is believed to have been behind a blast that struck an Iranian military ship just last week.

    The Israeli government opposes the Biden administration’s efforts to return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, insisting the agreement didn’t do enough to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week warned the U.S. that his country would not feel itself bound by a revived agreement.

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  13. Politics

    Blinken names State Department's chief diversity and inclusion officer

    Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley served as a senior career diplomat for more than three decades.

    Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Monday named Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the department’s newly created chief diversity and inclusion officer.

    “The State Department simply isn’t as diverse and inclusive as it needs to be," Blinken said Monday.

    He added that the problem is longstanding and “goes much deeper than any one institution, or any one administration."

    “It’s perpetuated by policies, practices and people to this day," Blinken said.

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  14. Foreign Policy

    Can Ukraine deploy U.S.-made weapons against the Russians?

    There are no geographic restrictions on the deployment of the missiles, which means Ukrainian forces can transport, distribute and use them any time.

    As Russia amasses the highest number of troops on Ukraine's border since 2014, the question for Kyiv now becomes: Is it time to start putting U.S.-made weapons in the field?

    Ukraine purchased 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers from the U.S. in 2018 for approximately $47 million, and the State Department approved the sale of a second batch of 150 missiles and 10 launch units in late 2019. But with them came a variety of restrictions on their usage, including that they be stored in western Ukraine, far from the front lines.

    The Javelin is a shoulder-fired missile that uses infrared guidance to target and destroy an enemy tank from up to 3 miles away. Former President Donald Trump first approved the sale of the weapon to Ukraine after his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, refused the request, due to fears that providing lethal aid to Kyiv would provoke Moscow.

    Wess Mitchell, who served as the Trump administration’s top State Department official overseeing European and Eurasian affairs, noted that the Javelins and other lethal weapons are designed not for first use but to deter Moscow from encroaching on Ukrainian territory.

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  15. Immigration

    Biden taps Tucson police chief to lead CBP

    The president also announced his pick for director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    President Joe Biden on Monday announced his intent to nominate Chris Magnus as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — tapping a police chief from Tucson, Ariz., to oversee the mammoth Department of Homeland Security agency tasked with managing the country's borders.

    Biden also said he intends to nominate Ur Jaddou — who previously served as director of DHS Watch, a project of the immigration reform group America's Voice — as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, POLITICO confirmed.

    DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised Biden's picks in a statement as "highly-regarded and accomplished professionals with deep experience in their respective fields."

    "Together they will help advance the Department of Homeland Security's mission to ensure the safety and security of the American people," Mayorkas said. "I look forward to working with the Senate in support of their swift confirmation."

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  16. cybersecurity

    Biden names former NSA officials to key cybersecurity positions

    The president’s selection of Chris Inglis and Jen Easterly adds to a roster of intelligence community veterans named as top cyber officials.

    Updated

    President Joe Biden on Monday named two former National Security Agency officials to top cybersecurity positions in his administration, filling vacancies that lawmakers and policy specialists have bemoaned as digital security crises wrack the country.

    In a statement, the White House said that Biden would nominate former NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis to be his national cyber director, choosing a former senior intelligence official to lead a newly created White House office that will guide Biden's cyber strategy and oversee agencies’ digital security.

    The president will also nominate Jen Easterly, a former deputy director of the NSA’s counterterrorism center, to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which helps defend federal government networks and America’s critical infrastructure facilities, the White House said.

    "If confirmed, Chris and Jen will add deep expertise, experience and leadership to our world-class cyber team," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. "We are determined to protect America’s networks and to meet the growing challenge posed by our adversaries in cyberspace – and this is the team to do it."

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  17. Finance

    Why big-spending Biden can shrug off GOP warnings of inflation

    If persistently rising inflation is coming to the U.S., history suggests it won’t happen until after Biden is out of office.

    Republicans are warning that President Joe Biden is taking a risky gamble that he can carry out his massive spending plans without triggering runaway inflation. Biden is betting on history as his defense.

    The specter of raging inflation — the erosion of consumer purchasing power — has become central to the debate about whether the government can afford Biden’s multitrillion-dollar “Build Back Better” programs. But years can go by before soaring inflation ever takes hold — and Biden will probably be gone from the White House if the country finds out that his critics were right.

    The U.S. experienced punishing, double-digit inflation starting in 1974 and it stayed high through the early 1980s, dragging down growth and eventually sparking two crippling recessions. But the seeds were planted in the mid-1960s during Lyndon Johnson’s free-spending administration and were fostered along the way by extraordinary events like Arab oil embargoes and federal policy missteps. Now, Biden administration officials, economists and even Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell say this time is different.

    “We’ve averaged less than 2 percent inflation for more than the last 25 years,” Powell told lawmakers recently. “Inflation dynamics do change over time, but they don’t change on a dime.”

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  18. Congress

    Dems kick off a tricky nationwide sales job on Biden's Covid aid plan

    The party's bill is broadly popular, but the pandemic is still far from over.

    KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. — Rep. Chrissy Houlahan sat down at a sunshine-drenched picnic table and gave her best sales pitch to two single moms who’d just had one hell of a year.

    The women at the town park listened politely as the Pennsylvania Democrat outlined some of the benefits they’ll see from President Joe Biden’s nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief package. Jobless benefits, stimulus checks, child tax credits: Houlahan unspooled her list, then added: “Did we get it right? Did we miss some stuff?”

    But the two moms weren't up for giving Congress a report card on Democrats' popular legislation. They wanted their congresswoman to tell them how long the government’s help would last, and when more would come.

    “A lot of families were struggling before Covid,” said a third woman at the table, Cheryl Miles, a local housing advocate whose nonprofit has seen surging demand even in some of the state’s wealthiest counties.

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