Live Updates: Biden to Toughen Tax Enforcement to Help Pay for His Economic Agenda

Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Biden is expected to propose giving the Internal Revenue Service an extra $80 billion and more authority over the next 10 years as he looks for ways to raise money to pay for his economic agenda, according to two people familiar with the plan.

Mr. Biden is expected to propose beefing up the I.R.S. to crack down on individuals and corporations that evade paying federal taxes. He will use the recouped tax funds to help pay for the cost of his American Families Plan, which he will detail before addressing a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Mr. Biden’s plan, which comes on top of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, is expected to cost at least $1.5 trillion and include funding for universal prekindergarten, federal paid leave, efforts to make child care more affordable, free community college and tax credits meant to fight poverty.

The plan will also call for tax increases, including raising the top marginal income tax rate for wealthy Americans and raising the rate that people who earn more than $1 million a year pay on profits earned from the sale of stocks or other assets. Mr. Biden is also expected to call for raising the rate on income that those earning more than $1 million a year get from stock dividends, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

The administration will portray these efforts, coupled with new taxes it is proposing on corporations and the rich, as a way to level the tax playing field between typical American workers and high earners who employ sophisticated efforts to minimize or evade taxation.

Administration officials have privately concluded that an aggressive crackdown on tax avoidance by corporations and the rich could raise at least $700 billion on net over 10 years. The $80 billion in proposed funding would be an increase of two-thirds over the agency’s entire funding levels for the past decade.

Previous administrations have long talked about trying to close the so-called tax gap — the amount of money that taxpayers owe but that is not collected each year. Earlier this month, the head of the I.R.S., Charles Rettig, told a Senate committee that the agency lacks the resources to catch tax cheats, costing the government as much as $1 trillion a year. The agency’s funding has failed to keep pace with inflation in recent years, amid budget tightening efforts, and its audits of rich taxpayers have declined.

Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, at a news conference at the Capitol last month.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A top House Democrat on Tuesday presented an expansive plan to broaden the social safety net for families, proposing to provide universal paid family and medical leave and expanded access to child care, as well as a permanent increase of the child tax credit.

Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, released his blueprint the day before President Biden was set to announce the second phase of his $4 trillion plan to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure and reshape its economy.

Mr. Neal’s plan is expected to serve as a starting point as Democrats prepare to build out the legislative details of Mr. Biden’s proposals.

In an address to a joint congressional session on Wednesday, the president is expected to detail at least $1.5 trillion in spending for universal prekindergarten, free community college, tax credits, federal paid leave, and plans to make child care more affordable. The plan comes on top of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, and would be paid for largely with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, in addition to cracking down on unpaid taxes.

While Mr. Neal did not say how he proposed to pay for his legislation, the plan would provide for 12 weeks of paid family leave, invest $15 billion in building and repairing child care centers, and provide refundable tax credits for child care providers, a benefit designed to help boost the wages of child care workers.

It would also expand the child tax credit to a regular benefit of $250 to $300 per child for most families, making permanent an increase that Congress approved through the end of the year as part of the nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus law enacted in March. Democrats have said that ensuring the permanence of that monthly benefit is a legislative priority, although Mr. Biden’s plan is expected to extend it only through 2025.

“Our economy is premised on the idea that some workers are worthy of ‘perks,’ like paid leave or affordable child care that works for their schedules, while the majority are forced to fend for themselves,” Mr. Neal said in a statement. “For our economy to fully recover from this pandemic, we must finally acknowledge that workers have families, and caregiving responsibilities are real.”

“It’s not enough to only focus on the roads that get Americans to work, we need to modernize the supports that get them through the day,” he added. “This is a time of great need, and we are ready to deliver.”

As chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Neal will oversee the writing of a large portion of Mr. Biden’s plan, including the tax credits aimed at further reducing poverty and any changes to the tax code to pay for the plan.

But other Democrats in both chambers have been outlining pet policy and project requests for what could be one of the most substantial legislative packages in recent history. On Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led a group of Democrats in introducing universal child care legislation, calling on Mr. Biden to sign off on $700 billion in child care funding.

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Biden Speaks Following C.D.C. Easing Mask Guidelines

President Biden spoke on Tuesday about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.

Cases and deaths are down, down dramatically from where they were when I took office on Jan. 20, and continuing to fall. This is particularly true for a group of Americans that we were most worried about when it came to the virus, senior citizens. When I took office in January, we were losing literally tens of thousands of our seniors each week, grandparents who were loved so dearly, moms and dads, pillars of every community. We have given 215 million shots. And that — anyone 16 years of age or older is now eligible to get the vaccine now, today, immediately. And because of the extraordinary progress we made in fighting this virus and the progress our scientists have made in learning about how it gets transmitted, earlier today, the C.D.C. made an important announcement: Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors, you need — and not in a big crowd — you no longer need to wear a mask.

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President Biden spoke on Tuesday about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors.CreditCredit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

President Biden and federal health officials said Tuesday that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors in most situations except for large gatherings — a step, the president said, toward getting “life in America closer to normal” by his target date of the Fourth of July.

“Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends, in a park, going for a picnic,” Mr. Biden said, addressing reporters outside the White House on what he deemed “a beautiful day” in Washington. “As long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without wearing a mask.”

Just two days before he marks his 100th day in office, after U.S. coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths declined sharply since January, Mr. Biden remarked that Americans have made “stunning progress.” But his comments were tempered with caution — masks are still necessary at outdoor concerts or sporting events, he said — an appeal to Americans who have not yet done so to roll up their sleeves and get a shot.

A short while earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines saying that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors if they’re walking, running, hiking or biking, either alone or with members of their household, and in small outdoor gatherings.

Credit…Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The risk of the virus spreading outdoors is so low that even unvaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask if they hike, jog, bike or run alone or with a household member, according to the C.D.C.’s updated advice.

People who haven’t gotten their shots can also go without a mask to small gatherings held outside as long as they are with fully vaccinated friends and family.

The guidelines were further relaxed for immunized people: They can take their masks off when they attend small gatherings with people who haven’t gotten their shots, and when they dine at a restaurant outside with people from multiple households.

The C.D.C. stopped short of telling even fully vaccinated people that they could shed their masks altogether in outdoor settings — citing the worrying risk that remains for transmitting the coronavirus, unknown vaccination levels among people in crowds and the still high-caseloads in some regions of the country.

The United States is averaging around 55,000 new cases a day, a roughly 20 percent drop from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Biden sought to link the news with the administration’s public campaign to get most American adults vaccinated by summer and trying to offer reassurances that some semblance of normal life can return. He concluded his brief remarks with a public service announcement for the vaccine.

“Go get your vaccination now; it’s free, and convenient,” the president said. “Ninety percent of the American people live within five miles of the site where you can get a vaccination. Do this — and we will do this.”

But the C.D.C. is maintaining advice on other safety measures, saying all adults should continue wearing masks and staying six feet apart in large public spaces, like outdoor performance or sports events, indoor shopping malls and movie theaters, where the vaccination and health status of others would be unknown. And they still should avoid medium and large gatherings, crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, officials said.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, Texas, spoke with an inmate at the Harris County Joint Processing Center in 2019. President Biden plans to nominate Mr. Gonzalez to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Credit…Godofredo A. Vasquez/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

President Biden will nominate Ed Gonzalez, a sheriff from Texas and critic of the Trump administration’s deportation policies, to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the White House said on Tuesday.

Mr. Gonzalez would take over an agency that has not had a permanent leader since 2017, even as public scrutiny grew over enforcement of deportation policies. The Trump administration cycled through six leaders since 2017 and none were ever confirmed by the senate. Mr. Gonzalez was elected sheriff of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, in 2016.

“With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. “I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”

Mr. Biden has vowed to reform ICE, directing the agency, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, to prioritize deporting recent border crossers, those who commit aggravated felonies or people who pose a threat to national security. Former President Donald J. Trump gave agents broad leeway to deport any undocumented immigrant. Mr. Trump’s stance energized some Democrats to call for the agency to be abolished.

Mr. Biden has resisted such demands, instead pledging to rein its enforcement powers. ICE agents will now have limits on the ability to arrest undocumented immigrants at courthouses, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday.

Neither Mr. Gonzalez nor Chris Magnus, the nominee to head Customs and Border Protection, have ever worked at the Department of Homeland Security. Both officials have, however, publicly criticized the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, including deportation raids.

Mr. Gonzalez said that those raids threatened to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, many of whom posed no immediate threat to the United States.

As sheriff of Harris County, Mr. Gonzalez also in 2017 withdrew from a partnership with ICE that allows local police to pick out undocumented immigrants in county jails for deportation.

Mr. Gonzalez, a former member of the Houston City Council who served 18 years in the city’s police department, will also be tasked with uniting an at-times divided agency. While ICE is known for carrying out deportations of undocumented immigrants, that work is mainly done by just one branch of the agency. The other, Homeland Security Investigations, conducts longer-term investigations into smuggling, terrorism and sex trafficking.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and others have argued that having commanders in control of sexual assault cases has prevented service members from coming forward out of fear of retaliation.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

After decades of failing to curb sexual assault in the armed forces, lawmakers and Pentagon leaders are poised to make major changes in military laws that many experts have long argued stand in the way of justice.

A bill championed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, would remove military commanders from a role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault. It has gained support from scores of key members of Congress.

Among them is Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, who said her own experience with assault and her daughter’s stories from West Point helped shift her views on the issue.

Ms. Ernst’s nod on a new bipartisan measure is likely to attract several other key lawmakers. Other senators — many of whom voted against the measure in the past — said in interviews that they had waited long enough for the military to solve the problem and agreed that Congress should step in.

“Adding Joni Ernst to this bill is the defining moment for passing it,” said Ms. Gillibrand, who has pressed her colleague on the issue for years.

Adding to the momentum, a panel appointed by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has made a similar recommendation, saying that independent judge advocates should take over the role that commanders currently play. These independent military lawyers would report to a special victims prosecutor, who would decide whether to court-martial those accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment or domestic violence. The responsibilities could also extend to those accused of hate crimes. The change to military law would require an act of Congress.

At a news conference scheduled for Thursday, Ms. Gillibrand is expected to announced her new compromise with Ms. Ernst, who has pushed for several additional components aimed at preventing assault, such as cameras in common areas and better training from the earliest entry points to the military.

“I have long said that by the time we have a survivor and a predator, we have failed,” Ms. Ernst said. “We’ve got to do more on prevention, and Kirsten agreed.”

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter in Atlanta in 2018. President Biden plans to meet with the Carters as part of a trip to Georgia this week.
Credit…John Amis/Associated Press

President Biden will meet with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife on Thursday as part of a trip punctuating his first 100 days in office, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Biden intends to visit the Carters’ residence in Plains, Ga., while in the state for a drive-in rally in Atlanta.

Mr. Carter, 96, has been mostly absent from public life in recent years, with public statements for the former president coming through his organization, the Carter Center.

Because of the risks of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Carter did not travel to Washington for Mr. Biden’s inauguration ceremony in January. Mr. Biden said he instead spoke with Mr. Carter by phone the night before.

Since February, however, both Mr. Carter and his wife have received a coronavirus vaccine and have been attending church, according to reporting from The Associated Press.

Mr. Biden, 78, was a junior senator in 1976 when Mr. Carter was elected president, and the two remained close, with Mr. Carter backing Mr. Biden during his last presidential bid.

“Joe Biden was my first and most effective supporter in the senate,” Mr. Carter said in a recorded statement played at the Democratic National Convention last year. “For decades, he’s been my loyal and dedicated friend.”

Deb Haaland, the secretary of the Interior Department, has sought to improve the historically fraught relationship between the federal government and tribal nations.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The Interior Department issued a series of orders on Tuesday streamlining the process for Native American tribes to acquire off-reservation lands from the federal government, reversing Trump administration actions that snarled and slowed the process.

A new order by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland re-delegates authority for review and approval of tribal acquisitions of these lands to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ regional directors. The order nullifies a 2017 policy shifting that authority to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, adding layers of bureaucracy and delays.

“At Interior, we have an obligation to work with tribes to protect their lands and ensure that each tribe has a homeland where its citizens can live together and lead safe and fulfilling lives,” Ms. Haaland said in a statement. “Our actions today will help us meet that obligation and will help empower tribes to determine how their lands are used — from conservation to economic development projects.”

The order does not apply to gaming applications, the department said.

The acquisition process, called Fee to Trust, enables tribes to reacquire lands within or near reservations, establish a land base for tribal communities, and clarify jurisdiction over their lands, according to the Interior Department. Trust acquisitions enhance the power of tribes, which are sovereign governments, to provide housing and law enforcement, protect hunting and farmland, and to manage and benefit from natural resources on their lands. Decades-old, long-repudiated federal policies atomized tribal lands, impeding self-governance.

“The patchwork of landholdings within existing reservation boundaries can make it difficult to develop coherent law enforcement and regulatory policies on reservations, restricting the ability to sustain community and economic development,” Bryan Newland, the newly-appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, said in the statement. “These important actions are a step in the right direction to restore homelands that will strengthen tribal communities.”

President Biden committed in a January memorandum to “regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations.” The new orders are part of a concerted effort by Ms. Haaland, the first Native American secretary of the Interior Department, to improve the historically fraught relationship between the federal government and Native American tribal nations.

President Biden nominated Thomas A. Monheim to be the permanent inspector general of the intelligence community.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden nominated the acting inspector general of the intelligence community to take the job permanently, asking Congress to confirm Thomas A. Monheim to a post he took temporarily after former President Donald J. Trump fired the previous inspector general.

Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Monheim on an acting basis in 2019, shortly after he fired Michael K. Atkinson. Mr. Atkinson had brought a whistle-blower’s allegations to Congress, touching off the House investigation of Mr. Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart. That investigation resulted in Mr. Trump’s first impeachment in January 2019, which ended in an acquittal.

By keeping Mr. Monheim in place and making his appointment permanent, the Biden administration signaled it wanted to restore the nonpartisan reputation of inspector generals, and the independence of the office, one of the most important oversight jobs with the nation’s intelligence agencies.

“Tom Monheim has served as acting inspector general of the intelligence community for more than a year with the utmost professionalism and integrity,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement announcing the nomination.

Mr. Trump was accused of trying to politicize and weaken the executive branch’s inspectors general after firing Mr. Atkinson. To ease those concerns, Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, installed Mr. Monheim. Allies of Mr. Grenell insisted at the time. that Mr. Monheim was well-qualified and would be nonpartisan, and not a defender of Mr. Trump.

Since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, House Republicans have criticized the intelligence agencies for removing some Trump appointees, most prominently Michael Ellis. In the closing days of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Ellis, a former top White House lawyer, was appointed to a nonpartisan Civil Service job as the top lawyer at the National Security Council. The Biden administration placed him on leave.

But Mr. Ellis, unlike Mr. Monheim, was seen as a partisan, and prominent Democrats had raised questions about whether Civil Service rules were violated when appointing him.

Before the Trump administration, ousting inspector generals was rare.

A retired colonel in the Air Force reserves, Mr. Monheim has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also served as the top lawyer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and served in a variety of legal roles in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, the White House and elsewhere.

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, have pressed the government to help find out what happened to their son.
Credit…Bilal Hussein/Associated Press

The 2012 kidnapping of Austin Tice, a journalist who covered the war in Syria and became one of the longest-held American hostages abroad, has been an enduring frustration for government officials.

They had found glimpses of hope over the years. Mr. Tice briefly escaped captivity shortly after he was kidnapped, according to two people familiar with the episode — but he was recaptured. And during the Obama administration, the C.I.A. obtained a tantalizing piece of information: a Syrian document indicating that its government had been holding Mr. Tice, an admission Syrian officials have never made.

Former President Donald J. Trump was so focused on Mr. Tice’s safe return that the Syrian government had an incentive to cut a generous deal to free him before Mr. Trump left office. The C.I.A. formed a special cell to gather intelligence, a powerful Persian Gulf ally was enlisted to help and, among other highly unusual personal entreaties, senior officials traveled to Damascus to plead their case with Syria’s top spy. But none of it worked.

With Mr. Trump’s exit from office, hopes for Mr. Tice’s release have begun to fade. Now the disappearance of Mr. Tice presents a test for Biden administration officials, whose willingness to resolve the case could run up against their reluctance to wade into the sort of unorthodox diplomacy conducted by Trump national security officials.

“If the Syrians had Tice during the Trump administration, that was the time to give him up and get a lot in return,” said Andrew Tabler, who served as the director for Syria on the National Security Council under Mr. Trump and later as a senior adviser to the U.S. special envoy for Syria. Mr. Tabler declined to discuss the specifics of Mr. Tice’s case.

Biden administration officials said they were committed to finding and rescuing Mr. Tice. The State Department disclosed this month that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had spoken with the Tice family and made clear that the department had “no higher priority” than seeking his release, a department official said.

Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The chairman of the Senate banking panel asked Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Tuesday for information about whether Credit Suisse continued to help rich Americans defraud the I.R.S. even after it signed a settlement agreement with the Justice Department vowing to stop the practice.

At issue is a retired professor named Dan Horsky, whom Credit Suisse helped to evade tax payments on $200 million in assets. A whistle-blower made federal prosecutors aware of Mr. Horsky’s account in the summer of 2014, and it clearly violated the terms of the settlement agreement that Credit Suisse had agreed to just weeks earlier.

But the Justice Department under the Obama and Trump administrations never punished Credit Suisse for violating the deal, even though the whistle-blower’s information led Mr. Horsky to plead guilty to tax evasion in 2016.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked Mr. Garland for more information about the Horsky account and anything else that might show whether Credit Suisse executives made false statements to Congress, to the Justice Department and to the courts when it said it vowed to cooperate with U.S. government efforts to force the wealthiest Americans to pay their taxes. He requested a briefing on the case by May 11.

The scrutiny around Credit Suisse’s private wealth management practices comes at a sensitive time for the bank. Last week it reported significant losses because of loans it made to a collapsed investment firm and said that Switzerland’s financial regulator would investigate the bank’s risk management practices. Regulators are also investigating a spying scandal and the sale of billions of dollars worth of investments that were reminiscent of the shoddy subprime mortgage bonds that led to the 2008 global financial crisis.

A spokesman said that the Justice Department had received the letter, but had no immediate comment. A Credit Suisse spokeswoman said that since the 2014 settlement, the company “has cooperated fully with U.S. authorities and will continue to do so.”

In May 2014 Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to helping some American clients evade taxes and was fined a total of $2.6 billion. But it avoided even higher fines because it vowed to federal prosecutors that it had stopped the practice, would close “any and all accounts of recalcitrant account holders,” and would help the U.S. pursue other criminal investigations.

Jack Ewing contributed reporting.

The F.B.I.’s headquarters in Washington. An internal audit showed that the bureau repeatedly violated rules intended to protect Americans’ privacy.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

For a second year, the nation’s surveillance court has pointed with concern to “widespread violations” by the F.B.I. of rules intended to protect Americans’ privacy when analysts search emails gathered without a warrant — but still signed off on another year of the program, a newly declassified ruling shows.

In a 67-page ruling issued in November and made public on Monday, James E. Boasberg, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, recounted several episodes uncovered by an F.B.I. audit where the bureau’s analysts improperly searched for Americans’ information in emails that the National Security Agency collected without warrants.

Those instances appeared largely to be additional examples of an issue that was already brought to light in a December 2019 ruling by Judge Boasberg. The government made it public in September.

The F.B.I. has already sought to address the problem by rolling out new system safeguards and additional training, although the coronavirus pandemic has hindered the bureau’s ability to assess how well they are working. Still, Judge Boasberg said he was willing to issue a legally required certification for the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program to operate for another year.

“While the court is concerned about the apparent widespread violations of the querying standard,” Judge Boasberg wrote, “it lacks sufficient information at this time to assess the adequacy of the F.B.I. system changes and training, post-implementation.”

Because of that, he added, the court concluded that “the F.B.I.’s querying and minimization procedures meet statutory and Fourth Amendment requirements.”



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