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Insurance NewsBiden’s First 100 Days: His Stances on Policies From Taxes to Immigration and Policing | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly

Biden’s First 100 Days: His Stances on Policies From Taxes to Immigration and Policing | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly

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Mr. Biden has pursued trillions of dollars of spending for coronavirus, infrastructure and child care, along with major changes in tax policy and aggressive emission-reduction targets. He has taken steps to roll back many of former President

Donald Trump’s

immigration and foreign policies while retaining much of the former president’s tough approach toward China.

After 100 days in office, here is where the administration stands on a range of domestic and international policy issues:

Tax Policy

President Biden pushed major—but temporary—tax-policy changes through Congress in his first 100 days. The tough work of enacting the bulk of his agenda, though, lies ahead.

The coronavirus aid package he signed in March included $1,400 per-person payments to most Americans, reaching a broader population of college students and disabled adults who didn’t qualify for payments in 2020. That move included other temporary measures to help people cope during the pandemic, like a tax break on unemployment benefits received in 2020 and benefits for businesses retaining their workers and for people purchasing health insurance.

The law also expanded the child tax credit to $3,000 per child from $2,000, plus a $600 bonus for children younger than 6. That credit will now be fully refundable, meaning that households can get the money even if they have no income or tax liability. That change and the expanded tax breaks for child care last only through 2021. Mr. Biden wants to make the full refundability and child-care tax credit expansion permanent. He would extend the higher amounts for the child-care tax credit through 2025, though some congressional Democrats want that to be permanent as a tool to fight child poverty.

The expanded tax credits and stimulus payments came as part of an emergency pandemic response in which Democrats agreed to borrow more. Now, the other side of Mr. Biden’s redistributionist approach to tax policy will be more challenging to turn into law.

He has proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and requiring U.S. companies to pay higher taxes on their foreign profits. And he’s now proposing more taxes on individuals, including higher rates on top earners’ ordinary income and capital gains, along with changes to how capital gains are taxed at death. Those plans may run into resistance from some Democrats, including lawmakers from New York and New Jersey, who are pressing the president to repeal the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction.

As the number of people vaccinated has increased, Covid-19 cases have declined from the average of more than 200,000 new cases a day in late January to about 70,000 new cases a day in late April.



Photo:

Elaine Cromie for The Wall Street Journal

Pandemic

More than 200 million vaccine shots have been administered during Mr. Biden’s first 100 days.

President Biden used the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine supplies and forged a manufacturing collaboration between Merck and

Johnson & Johnson

to expand production. The administration also established mass vaccination sites and tapped the U.S. military to help administer shots.

In addition, the White House has worked with states to increase vaccine availability at community health centers that typically serve minorities and lower-income patients.

By late April the U.S. was averaging about 3 million vaccinations a day, up from about 1 million a day when Mr. Biden took office.

As the number of people vaccinated has increased, coronavirus cases have declined from the average of more than 200,000 new cases a day in late January to about 70,000 new cases a day in late April.

While vaccine supply has become more plentiful—with all people age 16 and older eligible for the shots—more states are reporting unclaimed appointments and vaccines. The drop in interest in vaccines along with the spread of variants could imperil a return to normalcy.

The increase in migrants along the southern border has become one of the first major challenges of Mr. Biden’s presidency.



Photo:

Verónica G. Cárdenas for The Wall Street Journal

Immigration

Mr. Biden campaigned on promises to undo much of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, but his plans have been frustrated by a surge in migrants crossing the southern border illegally.

Since taking office, he ended Mr. Trump’s national security ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries entering the U.S. Mr. Biden temporarily halted construction of the border wall, created a task force to reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration and sent a comprehensive immigration bill to Congress for consideration.

But the increase in migrants along the southern border has become one of the first major challenges of Mr. Biden’s presidency. The administration has scrambled to open a network of emergency shelters and begun negotiations with Mexico and countries in Central America to turn migrants back before they reach the U.S. border.

The increase in illegal border crossings has boosted opposition among Republicans and some Democrats toward Mr. Biden’s goal of comprehensive immigration reform. Mr. Biden proposed a broad immigration bill on his first day in office to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants lacking permanent legal status and overhaul the immigration, refugee and asylum systems.

Mr. Biden also faced criticism this month from some Democrats and religious leaders after he signed an order keeping the cap on refugee admissions at a record-low 15,000 set by the Trump administration. The Biden administration had announced in February it would raise the ceiling to 62,500. The White House reversed course, saying it would raise the cap by mid-May.

The Biden administration is also weighing whether it is required by law to spend the $1.375 billion Congress allotted to construct the border wall this year. Mr. Biden said previously he wouldn’t build another mile of wall. And though the administration has formed a task force to reunite immigrant families, immigrant advocates have grown frustrated that no concrete steps have been taken.

In his first address to Congress, President Biden called for huge federal investments, including $2.3 trillion in infrastructure and $1.8 trillion in family and education programs. Gerald F. Seib unpacks the four main takeaways from the speech. Photo illustration: Ksenia Shaikhutdinova
Infrastructure

President Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, which provides large chunks of funding for roads, bridges and rural broadband as well as money for programs that broaden the traditional definition of “infrastructure.”

The plan would devote $621 billion to transportation infrastructure, including large investments in existing and new technologies. The roughly $80 billion marked for the national rail network would represent the government’s biggest investment in Amtrak. Some $174 billion would be spent to seed the development of electric cars through tax incentives for buyers and expansion of charging networks.

But the plan also includes $400 billion for long-term care for the elderly and disabled. The proposal has drawn criticism from Republicans, who say Mr. Biden is trying to expand the social safety net under the guise of investing in the nation’s infrastructure.

Having issued its proposal, the administration is waiting on Congress to turn the plan into legislation. Republicans have countered with their own much smaller infrastructure proposal. And centrist lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, could help determine how much of Mr. Biden’s ambitious agenda comes up for a vote.

House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

has said she wants a vote on the infrastructure package by July 4. The White House has said it is open to negotiation with Republicans. However, many on the Hill expect the package to pass the Senate via budget reconciliation—a process that allows lawmakers to skirt the 60-vote threshold required for most legislation.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from right, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, far right, at U.S.-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, last month.



Photo:

Frederic J. Brown/Press Pool

China

The Biden administration has sought a tough approach toward China, sustaining the trade tariffs, technology controls and some other hard-line policies set by the Trump administration. Secretary of State

Antony Blinken

has said relations with China will combine confrontation, competition and collaboration.

To correct what it saw as an error in the Trump strategy, the White House has sought to rally allies to create a united front to confront China. Among his first virtual summits, Mr. Biden met with the other leaders of the Quad—Australia, India and Japan—a grouping to counter China’s expanding influence in Asia. Mr. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Tokyo and Seoul to shore up support just ahead of the administration’s first high-level talks with China.

When Mr. Blinken and national security adviser

Jake Sullivan

sat down with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska, Mr. Blinken chided Beijing on human rights in front of the news media. Chinese foreign-policy official

Yang Jiechi

shot back that the U.S., given racial injustice and other problems, was in no position to judge China.

Beijing has tested the administration on security, sending warplanes in greater numbers into airspace near Taiwan, a U.S. partner. The Biden administration has signaled support for Taiwan, issuing new guidelines to facilitate contacts between officials.

President Biden moved to end the Trump administration’s legal battle with California over the state’s authority to regulate motor-vehicle emissions.



Photo:

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Climate

Central to Mr. Biden’s climate agenda is a steep reduction in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

To that end, he returned the U.S. to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which sets out a global framework to combat climate change.

As part of the U.S.’s re-entry into the agreement, Mr. Biden committed the U.S. to reducing emissions by 50% from levels in 2005 over the next nine years. Administration officials also reiterated their broad climate-policy goals, including zeroing out carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants by 2035, increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and cutting emissions in the transportation sector.

Commitments under the Paris agreement are nonbinding. The White House also has yet to outline a detailed plan to meet those targets.

Early executive orders established a review of dozens of environmental policies enacted under President Trump, revoked a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and halted new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands pending further review. Mr. Biden moved to end the Trump administration’s legal battle with California over the state’s authority to regulate motor-vehicle emissions.

His $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal pushes for wider use of electric vehicles and for electricity to be produced with low-carbon energy sources. The plan also provides support through government-funded research and development of grid-scale battery storage, carbon capture technology and advanced nuclear power.

The White House’s own researchers have warned it will be difficult for Mr. Biden to replace jobs in communities dependent on the fossil-fuel industry as quickly as they disappear. Critics among congressional Republicans and the energy industry have said Mr. Biden’s plan could hurt the economy by raising the price of energy.

Trade

Mr. Biden and U.S. Trade Representative

Katherine Tai

have said that working closely with allies and multilateral organizations while protecting American workers and their jobs are the linchpins of the administration’s trade policy.

One of the first actions that the Biden administration took was to lift America’s opposition to the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister, as the new head of the World Trade Organization.

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The administration also sought to defuse a long-running dispute with European nations over aircraft subsidies, suspending a tit-for-tat tariff fight while working toward a resolution.

But the administration also has kept in place steel and aluminum tariffs introduced by Mr. Trump, frustrating targeted allies, as well as U.S. manufacturers that have faced higher import costs for materials. Ms. Tai has said the tariffs won’t be lifted soon, citing a global glut of metals and the “leverage” the tariffs provide in future negotiations.

In her first public speech this month, Ms. Tai stressed that trade policy will be used to protect the environment and combat climate change. She said existing trade rules have encouraged a “race to the bottom” and put countries with higher environmental standards at a disadvantage.

Foreign Policy

President Biden in his first months has taken steps to place his imprint on foreign policy, while reversing some of the Trump administration’s positions.

Mr. Biden announced a U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, while outlining a counterterrorism strategy of using regional forces to counter extremist groups across the Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Trump had reached a deal with the insurgent Taliban movement under which U.S. troops would depart by May 1.

Mr. Biden moved to have the U.S. rejoin international groups such as the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement and hold negotiations over the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

The White House extended the New START nuclear arms agreement with Russia, while also imposing new sanctions for Kremlin interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the

SolarWinds

cyberattack and other malign activity.

Mr. Biden fulfilled several campaign promises. He recognized the World War I-era massacres of Armenians as genocide, a move likely to exacerbate growing tensions with Turkey. He also released a U.S. intelligence report harshly critical of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in the 2018 slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reduced U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the civil war in Yemen.

The president reversed former President Trump’s call to withdraw U.S. forces from Germany.

Some of Mr. Biden’s foreign-policy initiatives have drawn questions from across the political spectrum. The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan ran counter to military recommendations, and some U.S. lawmakers expressed concerns about the future of the country.

Mr. Biden also left some of the previous administration’s policies in place. He let stand Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, rather than Tel Aviv. Mr. Biden has continued Trump-era tariffs against China and, for now, many U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Healthcare

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law Mr. Biden signed into law last month increased subsidies to people who buy Affordable Care Act health plans, marking the biggest changes to the health law since its passage in 2010.

The changes to the ACA mean much lower payments for almost 14 million people now insured on the individual market. The legislation also ended an income cap that limits who is eligible for ACA tax credits to reduce monthly insurance premiums. The new law also limited the amount households pay to only 8.5% of their income on healthcare and boosted subsidies to lower-income consumers.

The relief legislation included federal funding for two years to states that expand Medicaid, more than covering a state’s cost for increasing eligibility for the program, currently used by almost 79 million low-income and disabled people. Some GOP leaders in states that previously declined to expand Medicaid, such as Alabama and Wyoming, have indicated an openness to discussing expansion.

Mr. Biden also started a special open enrollment period under the ACA, which enabled people to obtain coverage outside the normal sign-up period. More than 500,000 people have signed up so far, according to federal data. The period runs through Aug. 15.

Mr. Biden has yet to act on some other campaign pledges, including empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices and creating a public option, a government-run health insurance program that would be an alternative to private insurance.

Many Democrats want to make the expansion of the ACA subsidies permanent and have pressed Mr. Biden to include drug negotiation or lower the age eligibility of Medicare to 60 from 65 in coming legislative packages. But expanding Medicare’s eligibility age or launching a public option are politically-divisive issues, and it isn’t clear whether such measures would get enough Democratic support in the face of unified Republican opposition.

A memorial last September in Louisville, Ky., for Breonna Taylor, who was killed at home by police during a raid with a no-knock warrant.



Photo:

Leslie Spurlock/Zuma Press

Policing

Under Attorney General

Merrick Garland,

Mr. Biden’s Justice Department has taken a more active role in oversight of local policing.

Mr. Garland has announced two sweeping federal civil-rights investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville, Ky., police departments, where police killings of Black people a year ago fueled nationwide demonstrations and bipartisan calls for change.

Mr. Garland has told law enforcement groups to expect more so-called pattern-or-practice investigations, which can end in legal settlements designed to force changes in departments that are overseen by federal monitors.

Mr. Biden has declined to take executive action on policing and scrapped a campaign pledge to establish a national police oversight commission.

Instead Mr. Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would reduce funding for state and local police departments that don’t ban chokeholds. It would also prohibit the use of no-knock warrants for federal drug offenses, which came into focus following the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville last year.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives in March passed the bill on a party-line vote. However, it faces obstacles in the Senate where Republicans oppose a provision that would make it easier to bring civil lawsuits against police officers.

Lawmakers of both parties led by

Rep. Karen Bass

(D., Calif.) and Sens.

Cory Booker

(D., N.J.) and

Tim Scott

(R., S.C.) are holding talks in the hope of bridging the gaps that derailed passage last year.

Gun Violence

President Biden took a series of executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence in early April, but the beefiest components of his agenda remain in the hands of Congress.

Earlier this month, he directed the Justice Department to take steps to rein in the use of untraceable weapons known as ghost guns that can be made from parts purchased online. These weapons will now be treated as firearms, requiring serial numbers and buyer background checks. Mr. Biden also said that pistols modified with the kind of arm brace used by the shooter who killed 10 people last month in Boulder, Colo., will be subject to restrictions like fees and the submission of identifying information to the Justice Department.

But the centerpiece of Democrats’ gun-control agenda—expanding the use of background checks to more gun sales—remains the subject of ongoing negotiations in the Senate. Any legislation would need the support of 10 Republicans to pass the Senate, where Democrats control 50 seats. Republicans have balked at a bill passed by the House that would expand background checks to nearly all gun sales, calling it too broad. Some GOP lawmakers said they would be more comfortable with requiring background checks on commercial sales, but not restricting sales between friends and relatives.

Domestic Extremism

Mr. Biden pledged during his campaign to make domestic terrorism a priority.

Last year, domestic terrorist attacks and plots reached levels not seen in more than a quarter-century, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank. White supremacists and other right-wing extremists accounted for two-thirds of those, and domestic terrorist acts or plots committed by antifascist and other leftist groups rose, representing about one-quarter of the total.

The rise in domestic terrorism took on fresh urgency for the Biden administration after a mob of Trump supporters, which included members of extremist groups, stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, U.S. officials say.

In its first months, the Biden administration has brought on terrorism advisers to the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, ordered a 100-day federal policy review, increased funding to community programs and proposed additional money for the Justice Department.

As part of its review, White House officials have held discussions about domestic violent extremism with federal agencies including the Commerce, Education, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments, senior administration officials said.

DHS announced this week its first-ever review to root out white supremacist and extremist ideology within its ranks, significant because DHS is one of the prime agencies tasked with preventing domestic terrorism. The department has also faced scrutiny in recent years after multiple episodes of misconduct. In 2019, for instance, a Coast Guard lieutenant and self-described white nationalist was arrested after allegedly stockpiling weapons and writing a hit list of Democratic lawmakers, activists and journalists; DHS oversees the Coast Guard. DHS officials said the internal review wasn’t prompted by new information about extremism within the department’s ranks.

The White House’s National Security Council is expected to conclude its review around May 1 and will later produce its first-ever strategy on domestic terrorism to inform policy-making, the administration officials said.

After Joe Biden was elected president, many people anticipated a new period of bipartisanship in Washington. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why that hasn’t materialized. Photo illustration: Emma Scott
Student Debt

Mr. Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation to cancel $10,000 in student debt for each of the 43 million borrowers with federal student loans. Congress hasn’t acted. Instead, some Democrats have urged the White House to use executive action to forgive student debt.

Mr. Biden has raised doubts about whether the administration has the legal authority to do so. But under growing pressure from Democrats, the White House said this spring that it had asked administration lawyers to look at the legality of such an executive action. The outcome of that review hasn’t been announced.

Mr. Biden has used executive action to extend the suspension of borrowers’ monthly payments on student loans through September while also temporarily halting interest from accruing on the debt.

The president has also called for legislation to make community college tuition-free; boost cash grants for students from lower-income households to cover living expenses while in school; and make four years of college tuition-free for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year.

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