After issuing a series of executive orders on his first full day in office and pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, President Biden on Friday will continue apace with two more executive orders aimed at steering additional federal aid to families struggling to afford food amid the pandemic and helping workers stay safe on the job.
Mr. Biden, who has vowed to use the power of the presidency to help mitigate economic fallout from the pandemic, will also direct the Treasury Department to find ways to deliver stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans who have not yet received the funds.
Mr. Biden also plans to sign a second executive order that will lay the groundwork for the federal government to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage for its employees and contract workers, while making it easier for federal workers to bargain collectively for better pay and benefits.
The executive actions are part of an attempt by Mr. Biden to override his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, on issues pertaining to workers, the economy and the federal safety net. The orders Mr. Biden will sign on Friday are a break from the Trump administration’s attempts to limit the scope of many federal benefits that Trump officials said created a disincentive for Americans to work.
The orders follow an ambitious raft of measures Mr. Biden took on his first full day in office, on Thursday. He signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States.
“History is going to measure whether we are up to the task,” Mr. Biden declared on Thursday in an appearance in the State Dining Room of the White House. Appearing by his side were Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, his chief Covid-19 medical adviser, who later warned in his first White House address in months that the nation was “still in a very serious situation.”
Later, in a briefing on Thursday, Mr. Biden said he was carrying out his longstanding pledge to invoke the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During the presidential campaign, he had called for using the Korean War-era law to increase the nation’s supply of essential items like coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment. On Thursday, he signed an executive order directing federal agencies to make use of it to increase production of materials needed for vaccines.
With thousands of Americans dying every day from Covid-19, a national death toll that exceeds 400,000 and a new, more infectious variant of the virus spreading quickly, the pandemic poses the most pressing challenge of Mr. Biden’s early days in office. How he handles it will set the tone for how Americans view his administration going forward, as Mr. Biden himself acknowledged.
In a 200-page document released earlier Thursday called “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” the new administration outlined the kind of centralized federal response that Democrats have long demanded and that Mr. Trump had refused.
But the Biden plan is in some respects overly optimistic and in others not ambitious enough, some experts say. It is not clear how he would enforce the quarantine requirement. And his promise to inject 100 million vaccines in his first hundred days is aiming low, since those 100 days should see twice that number of doses available.
Efforts to untangle and speed up the distribution of vaccines — perhaps the most pressing challenge for the Biden administration that is also the most promising path forward — will be a desperate race against time, as states across the country have warned that they could run out of doses as early as this weekend.
Maggie Astor contributed reporting.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, asked Democrats on Thursday to delay former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial until mid-February, complicating their hopes of reaching a swift agreement to prevent the proceeding from interfering with the crucial first weeks of President Biden’s tenure.
The proposal emerged as Mr. McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, were locked in a separate stalemate over how they would share power and whether Democrats would promise to preserve Republicans’ ability to filibuster legislation
The deadlock highlighted Mr. McConnell’s determination to maintain his leverage to thwart Mr. Biden’s priorities and the difficulty Democrats would have doing business with a one-vote majority.
The result: On Mr. Biden’s first full day in office and Democrats’ first in total control of Congress, the Senate was in a state of suspended animation, unable to move forward with even the basic tasks of organizing committees or setting rules for getting virtually anything done.
It was not clear whether Mr. Schumer would agree to Mr. McConnell’s request for an impeachment trial delay. Justin Goodman, Mr. Schumer’s spokesman, said the leader would review Mr. McConnell’s proposal and discuss it with him.
Earlier on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had declined to say when she planned to send the House impeachment charge to the Senate, which would immediately start the clock for beginning the trial. She said only that she would do so “soon.”
Of the 125 federal arrests made so far in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, most have been relatively simple: Agents and prosecutors have put together cases largely by scouring the news and social media for incriminating photographs and videos, with some of the evidence almost comically easy to obtain.
But the inquiry into the Capitol assault, a huge effort that has focused its attention on as many as 400 people, took an important turn this week as prosecutors filed their first serious conspiracy charges, accusing three members of the right-wing militia group the Oath Keepers of plotting the incursion in advance. If, as they have promised, investigators are hoping to narrow their gaze on organized extremists who may have planned the attack, they are going to have to use a different and more difficult-to-master set of skills.
The F.B.I.’s most challenging work, legal scholars say, may have only just begun.
“It’s a lot harder to charge a conspiracy, especially compared to the first wave of cases where you basically had people confessing on video to federal crimes,” said Aitan Goelman, a former federal prosecutor who helped try Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.
In making more conspiracy cases, the first question investigators must confront is how much conspiring actually went into the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Five people died in the violent attack, and the final certification of President Biden’s election was abruptly interrupted as lawmakers fled the House and Senate floors.
Chilling videos and photos have emerged showing some people moving inside the building in tight formation, wearing military gear, carrying restraints and sometimes using hand signals or radios to communicate.
But many people appear to have acted spontaneously and, at least so far, have been accused of misdemeanors like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.
The Oath Keeper case could be a model moving forward for more complicated cases. The criminal complaint shows investigators employing a variety of techniques in tracking down and charging the defendants: Thomas E. Caldwell, Donovan Crowl and Jessica Watkins. Mr. Caldwell said he intended to fight the charges at a hearing this week. Mr. Crowl and Ms. Watkins have not yet appeared in court to respond to the complaint.
Agents in their case pored through video footage at the Capitol looking for badges or insignia suggesting that the three accused militia members were part of the same group. They trolled social media accounts on platforms like Parler for any indications that the three were not only at the building, but had planned in advance to be there. And they obtained audio recordings of Ms. Watkins talking with others who are suspected of being Oath Keepers on Zello, a push-to-talk cellphone app that operates like a walkie-talkie.
Easy charges were brought early in the inquiry in an effort to get people into custody while investigations pressed forward. Prosecutors have echoed that notion in court, indicating that they are considering more serious charges against some defendants who have already been charged.
Shortly after the riot, the prosecutor in charge of the overarching inquiry, Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, announced that some people could face sedition charges, which are difficult to bring and rarely filed.
To prove a seditious conspiracy, prosecutors need to show that at least two people agreed to use force to overthrow government authority or delay the execution of a U.S. law, such as stopping Congress from certifying the results of the election. The charge is powerful, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
But some prior sedition cases have fallen apart because prosecutors failed to prove that the defendants had a concrete plan to commit a physical attack, even if there was evidence of openly discussing bringing down the government. That defense could be more challenging in the Capitol riot cases, former federal prosecutors say, because the attack has already happened.
Adam Goldman, Katie Benner and Rebecca R. Ruiz contributed reporting.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday revealed a slate of new executive orders and presidential directives intended to speed up production of Covid-19 supplies, increase testing capacity and require mask wearing during interstate travel — part of a sprawling 200-page national pandemic strategy he announced at a White House event. He is expected to sign more orders on Friday.
Taken together, the orders signal Mr. Biden’s earliest priorities in mounting a more centralized federal response to the spread of the coronavirus. Some of them mirror actions taken during the Trump administration, while most look to alter course.
Here’s what the orders aim to do.
Ramp up the pace of manufacturing and testing.
One order calls on agency leaders to check for shortages in areas like personal protective gear and vaccine supplies, and identify where the administration could invoke the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing.
Another order establishes a Pandemic Testing Board, an idea drawn from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s War Production Board, to ramp up testing. The new administration is promising to expand the nation’s supply of rapid tests, double test supplies and increase lab space for tests and surveillance for coronavirus hot spots.
Require mask wearing during interstate travel.
Mr. Biden has vowed to use his powers as president to influence mask wearing wherever he is legally allowed to, including on federal property and in travel that crosses state lines. An order issued Thursday requires mask wearing in airports and on many airplanes, intercity buses and trains.
The same order also requires international travelers to prove they have a recent negative Covid-19 test before heading to the United States and to comply with quarantining guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once they land.
Publish guidance for schools and workers.
Mr. Biden issued an order meant to protect the health of workers during the pandemic, telling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release new guidance for employers. The order also asks the agency to step up enforcement of existing rules to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
The president also directed the departments of Education and Health and Human Services to issue new guidance on how to safely reopen schools — a major source of controversy over the summer when White House and health department officials pressured the C.D.C. to play down the risk of sending students back.
Find more treatments for Covid-19 and future pandemics.
The Biden administration is calling on the health and human services secretary and the director of the National Institutes of Health to draft a plan to support the study of new drugs for Covid-19 and future public health crises through large, randomized trials.
National Guard troops brought in to protect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration were ordered to sleep in an unheated garage hours after being booted from the Capitol on Thursday, prompting an uproar among lawmakers who scrambled to move them back.
On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire demanded that state’s troops be sent home.
“I’ve ordered the immediate return of all New Hampshire National Guard from Washington D.C.,” Mr. Sununu, a moderate Republican, said on Twitter. “They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions.”
The Pentagon, which oversees deployment of the Guard, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The troops in the garage were among the more than 20,000 National Guard personnel who provided security for the inauguration on Wednesday. They were relocated on Thursday afternoon to the nearby Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, said Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., the spokesman for the Washington, D.C., branch of the National Guard.
Early Friday morning, the D.C. Guard said that the soldiers had been moved back to the Capitol from the parking garage. Capt. Nieves said that they would take future breaks “near Emancipation Hall,” a part of the Capitol complex.
Captain Nieves said that the Guard troops had been temporarily moved out of the Capitol on Thursday afternoon at request of the Capitol Police because of “increased foot traffic” as Congress came back into session. He did not specify how many soldiers had been moved.
The acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, said in a statement on Friday morning that the police did not tell the Guard to leave the Capitol except on Inauguration Day, when the swearing-in ceremony was taking place.
“As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex,” Ms. Pittman said. “The Department is also working with the Guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts, and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises.”
Two Guard soldiers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that they had been relocated without explanation and that they were without electrical power, heat or adequate restroom facilities. One soldier estimated that there were 1,000 troops sharing one portable restroom outside the garage.
“Zero guidance on mission, length of mission, nothing,” the soldier said.
The soldiers also said that their fellow troops were breathing in exhaust fumes because the garage at the Thurgood Marshall center was still in use for parking.
Captain Nieves said that the garage had heat and restrooms.
Reports of the move prompted protests from lawmakers from both parties, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York. Some offered to house the Guard troops in their offices.
“This is unacceptable and must be fixed,” Senator Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, wrote on Twitter.
On social media, some lawmakers said they were making efforts to move the troops back to the Capitol.
This is unacceptable. I just spoke to the Commanding Officer of all the National Guard troops at the Capitol, a great Marylander, Brigadier General Birckhead, to assure her that this outrage was being remedied immediately. We will get to the bottom of this.https://t.co/Vufvdj1M6e
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 22, 2021
In a tweet, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said that he had spoken to the acting chief of the Capitol Police about the issue.
Unacceptable. Numerous Senators working to fix this as we speak. I just got off the phone with the acting Capitol Police Chief who insists there was no general request for the Guard to vacate the building. But whatever happened, they are working to fix the problem now. https://t.co/dR5LQvN1UF
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 22, 2021
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that 12 Guard soldiers had been removed from their duties at Mr. Biden’s inauguration, two of them over texts and social media posts that made threatening comments toward political officials. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that all 12 soldiers had been removed over threatening remarks.)
As inauguration festivities were winding down in Washington, parallel celebrations were underway more than 8,000 miles away in Kamala Harris’s ancestral village.
The village in southern India, Thulasendrapuram, is where Ms. Harris’s maternal grandfather was born more than 100 years ago. On Election Day, residents there held a special ceremony at the village’s main temple to wish her luck.
To celebrate Ms. Harris’s inauguration as vice president, they began setting off fireworks at dawn on Wednesday under a coppery sun. Children and elderly people danced on narrow streets hemmed in by lush green paddy fields. And residents held up photos of Ms. Harris in front of the same temple, where believers had flocked to pray for her success in office.
Gopalan Balachandran, Ms. Harris’s uncle, watched the inauguration from his home in Delhi.
“We are all very proud of her,” he said in an interview, adding that he advises his niece on the occasional family Zoom call to “just keep doing what your mother taught you.”
Ms. Harris often speaks of her South Asian roots and the political activism her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was steeped in — first as a child in India, and later as a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi singled out Ms. Harris on Thursday in one of his congratulatory tweets to the Biden administration.
Former President Donald J. Trump was supported by many people in India, but he was regularly mocked on Indian social media platforms and generally disdained by the country’s urban intellectuals.
India’s main English-language newspapers struck a tone of relief on Thursday about the transition of power in the United States. “America returns,” The Economic Times proclaimed in a banner headline.
Gurcharan Das, a prominent author in New Delhi who once championed Mr. Modi but later became disillusioned with the prime minister’s polarizing Hindu nationalist agenda, said that he hoped the Biden administration would help heal America’s split.
That the inauguration followed the assault on the U.S. Capitol, he added, was an “affirmation that institutions work in America.”
“That is a very good lesson for India,” Mr. Das said. “Institutions are only so good as they are independent.”
Democrats have spent years promising to repeal the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Republicans passed without a single Democratic vote and was estimated to cost nearly $2 trillion over a decade. But President Biden appears more likely to tinker with it, despite saying during a presidential debate that he was “going to eliminate the Trump tax cuts.”
Mr. Biden and his aides are committing to only a partial rollback of the law, with their focus on provisions that help corporations and the very rich. It’s a position that Mr. Biden held throughout the campaign, and in the September debate he promised to only partly repeal a corporate rate cut.
In some cases, including tax cuts that help lower- and middle-class Americans, the Biden administration is looking to make former President Donald J. Trump’s temporary tax cuts permanent.
Mr. Biden still wants to raise taxes on some businesses and wealthy individuals, and he remains intent on raising trillions of dollars in new tax revenue to offset the federal spending programs that he plans to propose, including for infrastructure, clean energy production and education. Much of the new revenue, however, could come from efforts to tax investment and labor income for people earning more than $400,000, in ways that are not related to the 2017 law.
Mr. Biden did not include any tax increases in the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan he proposed last week, which was meant to curb the pandemic and help people and companies endure the economic pain it has caused.
His nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, told a Senate committee this week that the president would hold off on reversing any parts of the tax law until later in the recovery, which most likely means as part of a large infrastructure package that he is set to unveil next month.