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    Yellen Says Aim Is ‘Maximum Pain’ for Russia Without Hurting U.S.

    WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Wednesday that the United States would continue taking steps to cut Russia off from the global financial system in response to its invasion of Ukraine and argued that the sanctions already imposed had taken a severe toll on the Russian economy.She addressed the House Financial Services Committee as the United States rolled out a new array of sanctions on Russian banks and state-owned enterprises and on the adult children of President Vladimir V. Putin. The White House also announced a ban on Americans making new investments in Russia no matter where those investors are based.“Our goal from the outset has been to impose maximum pain on Russia, while to the best of our ability shielding the United States and our partners from undue economic harm,” Ms. Yellen told lawmakers.The measures introduced on Wednesday included “full blocking” sanctions against Sberbank, the largest financial institution in Russia, and Alfa Bank, one of the country’s largest privately owned banks.Sberbank is the main artery in the Russian financial system and holds over a third of the country’s financial assets. In February, the Treasury announced limited sanctions against Sberbank, but Wednesday’s sanctions, a senior Biden administration official said, will effectively freeze relations between the bank and the U.S. financial system.The administration also announced sanctions against two adult daughters of Mr. Putin: Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Putina, who has been living under an assumed name, Maria Vorontsova. Others connected to Russian officials with close ties to Mr. Putin will also face sanctions, including the wife and daughter of Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and members of Russia’s security council, including former Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. The official said those people would be effectively cut off from the U.S. banking system and any assets held in the United States.President Biden said on Wednesday that the new sanctions would deal another blow to the Russian economy.“The sense of brutality and inhumanity, left for all the world to see unapologetically,” Mr. Biden said, describing Russia’s actions as war crimes. “Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable, and together with our allies and our partners we’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”Experts suggested that the latest round of sanctions were unlikely to compel Mr. Putin to change course. Hundreds of American businesses have pulled out of Russia in recent weeks, making new investments unlikely.“The asset freezes on the additional banks aren’t nothing, but this isn’t the most significant tranche we’ve seen to date,” said Daniel Tannebaum, a partner at Oliver Wyman who advises banks on sanctions.Other American agencies are joining the effort to exert pressure on Russia.In a news conference on Wednesday, officials from the Justice Department and the F.B.I. also announced a series of actions and criminal charges against Russians, including the takedown of a Russian marketplace on the dark web and a botnet, or a network of hijacked devices infected with malware, that is controlled by the country’s military intelligence agency.Justice Department officials also celebrated the seizing of the Tango, a superyacht owned by the Russian oligarch Viktor F. Vekselberg, and charged a Russian banker, Konstantin Malofeev, with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions. Mr. Malofeev is one of Russia’s most influential magnates and among the most prominent conservatives in the country’s Kremlin-allied elite. (The indictment renders his surname as Malofeyev.)At the hearing, Ms. Yellen told lawmakers that she believed Russia should be further isolated from the geopolitical system, including being shut out of international gatherings such as the Group of 20 meetings this year, and should be denounced at this month’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. She added that the United States might not participate in some G20 meetings that are being held in Indonesia this year if Russians attended.Ms. Yellen, whose department has been developing many of the punitive economic measures, rebutted criticism that the penalties leveled so far had not been effective, in part because there are some exceptions to allow Russia to sell energy.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

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    House Votes to Suspend Normal Trade Relations With Russia

    WASHINGTON — The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to strip Russia of its preferential trade status with the United States, moving to further penalize the country’s economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine.The lopsided 424-to-8 vote came after President Biden announced last week that the United States and its European allies would take new steps to isolate Russia from the global trading system. All of the lawmakers who opposed the measure were Republicans.The bill, which would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods, is the latest in a series of measures that lawmakers have approved to support Ukraine and punish Russia for its invasion. Others include a ban on Russian oil and gas products and a $13.6 billion military and humanitarian aid package.The trade measure still needs Senate approval. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said he would work to move it through the chamber quickly.The House vote came a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered a searing speech to Congress via video link in which he urged lawmakers to do more to help his country and penalize Russia. His address, as well as a wrenching video he showed of Russian-inflicted carnage in Ukraine, hung heavily over the House floor on Thursday as lawmakers debated the trade bill.Mr. Zelensky “showed us the absolute horrors that Russia is inflicting on the Ukrainian people in full view of the world,” said Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “And he pleaded for us to do more. With the legislation that stands before us at this hour, we intend to answer his call.”Top lawmakers in the House proposed nearly a month ago to strip Russia of its trading status and begin a process to expel the country from the World Trade Organization. But last week, as the House worked to advance the legislation in tandem with a measure to ban the importation of Russian oil and gas products, Democrats stripped out the trade provision at the request of the Biden administration, which sought more time to confer with European allies about the move.“Folks, I know I’ve occasionally frustrated you,” Mr. Biden said to House Democrats at their retreat in Philadelphia last week. “But more important than us moving when we want to is making sure all of NATO is together — is together. They have different vulnerabilities than we do.”The move by the United States to strip Russia of its preferential trade status — known as “permanent normal trade relations” — carries symbolic weight, but trade experts have said it would have a limited economic effect compared with other sanctions that have already been imposed.The legislation passed by the House would also suspend normal trade relations with Belarus, in recognition of its role in aiding Russia’s attack on Ukraine.Stripping Russia of its trading status would be the latest in a growing list of economic penalties imposed on the country, whose economy is facing collapse.Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to KnowCard 1 of 4A key vote. More

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    U.S. Effort to Combat Forced Labor Targets Corporate China Ties

    The Biden administration is expected to face scrutiny as it decides how to enforce a new ban on products made with forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China.A far-reaching bill aimed at barring products made with forced labor in China became law after President Biden signed the bill on Thursday.But the next four months — during which the Biden administration will convene hearings to investigate how pervasive forced labor is and what to do about it — will be crucial in determining how far the legislation goes in altering the behavior of companies that source products from China.While it is against U.S. law to knowingly import goods made with slave labor, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act shifts the burden of proof to companies from customs officials. Firms will have to proactively prove that their factories, and those of all their suppliers, do not use slavery or coercion.The law, which passed the House and Senate nearly unanimously, is Washington’s first comprehensive effort to police supply chains that the United States says exploit persecuted minorities, and its impact could be sweeping. A wide range of products and raw materials — such as petroleum, cotton, minerals and sugar — flow from the Xinjiang region of China, where accusations of forced labor proliferate. Those materials are often used in Chinese factories that manufacture products for global companies.“I anticipate that there will be many companies — even entire industries — that will be taken by surprise when they realize that their supply chains can also be traced back to the Uyghur region,” said Laura Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Sheffield Hallam University in Britain.If the law is enforced as written, it could force many companies to rework how they do business or risk having products blocked at the U.S. border. Those high stakes are expected to set off a crush of lobbying by companies trying to ease the burden on their industries as the government writes the guidelines that importers must follow.“Genuine, effective enforcement will most likely mean there will be pushback by corporations and an attempt to create loopholes,” said Cathy Feingold, the international director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “So the implementation will be key.”Behind-the-scenes negotiations before the bill’s passage provided an early indication of how consequential the legislation could be for some of America’s biggest companies, as business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and brand names like Nike and Coca-Cola worked to limit the bill’s scope.The Biden administration has labeled the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang — including the detention of more than a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, as well as forced conversions, sterilization and arbitrary or unlawful killings — as genocide.Human rights experts say that Beijing’s policies of moving Uyghurs into farms and factories that feed the global supply chain are an integral part of its repression in Xinjiang, an attempt to assimilate minorities and strip them of their culture and religion..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}In a statement last week, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Biden welcomed the bill’s passage and agreed with Congress “that action can and must be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang.” She added that the administration would “work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor.”Yet some members of the administration argued behind closed doors that the bill’s scope could overwhelm U.S. regulators and lead to further supply chain disruptions at a time when inflation is accelerating at a nearly 40-year high, according to interviews with more than two dozen government officials, members of Congress and their staff. Some officials also expressed concerns that an aggressive ban on Chinese imports could put the administration’s goals for fighting climate change at risk, given China’s dominance of solar panels and components to make them, people familiar with the discussions said.John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change, and Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, separately conveyed some of those concerns in calls to Democratic members of Congress in recent months, according to four people familiar with the discussions.Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and one of the bill’s lead authors, criticized those looking to limit its impact, saying that companies that want to continue to import products and officials who are reluctant to rock the boat with China “are not just going to give up.” He added, “They’re all going to try to weigh in on how it’s implemented.”A solar farm near Wenquan, China. The Xinjiang region’s substantial presence in the solar supply chain has been a key source of tension in the Biden administration.Gilles Sabrié for The New York TimesOne reason the stakes are so high is because of the critical role that Xinjiang may play in many supply chains. The region, twice the size of Texas, is rich in raw materials like coal and oil and crops like tomatoes, lavender and hops; it is also a significant producer of electronics, sneakers and clothing. By some estimates, it provides one-fifth of the world’s cotton and 45 percent of the world’s polysilicon, a key ingredient for solar panels.Xinjiang’s substantial presence in the solar supply chain has been a key source of tension in the Biden administration, which is counting on solar power to help the United States reach its goal of significantly cutting carbon emissions by the end of the decade.In meetings this year, Biden administration officials weighed how difficult it would be for importers to bypass Xinjiang and relocate supply chains for solar goods and other products, according to three government officials. Officials from the Labor Department and the United States Trade Representative were more sympathetic to a far-reaching ban on Xinjiang goods, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Some officials in charge of climate, energy and the economy argued against a sweeping ban, saying it would wreak havoc on supply chains or compromise the fight against climate change, those people said.Ana Hinojosa, who was the executive director of Customs and Border Protection and led the government’s enforcement of forced labor provisions until she left the post in October, said that agencies responsible for “competing priorities” like climate change had voiced concerns about the legislation’s impact. Companies and various government agencies became nervous that the law’s broad authorities could prove “devastating to the U.S. economy,” she said.“The need to improve our clean energy is real and important, but not something that the government or the U.S. should do on the backs of people who are working under conditions of modern-day slavery,” Ms. Hinojosa added.In a call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California this year, Mr. Kerry conveyed concerns about disrupting solar supply chains while Ms. Sherman shared her concerns with Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, according to people familiar with the conversations.Mr. Merkley, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said in an interview that Ms. Sherman told him she was concerned the legislation was not duly “targeted and deliberative.” The conversation was first reported by The Washington Post.“I think this is a targeted and deliberative approach,” Mr. Merkley said. “And I think the administration is starting to see how strongly Republicans and Democrats in both chambers feel about this.”A State Department official said that Ms. Sherman did not initiate the call and did not express opposition to the bill. Whitney Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry, said any accusations he lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act were “false.” Ms. Pelosi declined to discuss private conversations.Nury Turkel, a Uyghur-American lawyer who is the vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the United States must “tackle both genocide and ecocide.”“Policymakers and climate activists are making it a choice between saving the world and turning a blind eye to the enslavement of Uyghurs,” he said. “It is false, and we cannot allow ourselves to be forced into it.”Administration officials have also argued that the United States can take a strong stance against forced labor while developing a robust solar supply chain. Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that Mr. Biden “believes what is going on in Xinjiang is genocide” and that the administration had taken a range of actions to combat human rights abuses in the region, including financial sanctions, visa restrictions, export controls, import restrictions and a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics in February.“We have taken action to hold the P.R.C. accountable for its human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang,” Ms. Horne said, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China. “And we will continue to do so.”Farm workers picking cotton near Qapqal, China, in 2015. By some estimates, Xinjiang produces one-fifth of the world’s cotton.Adam Dean for The New York TimesThe law highlights the delicate U.S.-China relationship, in which policymakers must figure out how to confront anti-Democratic practices while the United States is economically dependent on Chinese factories. China remains the largest supplier of goods to the United States.One of the biggest hurdles for U.S. businesses is determining whether their products touched Xinjiang at any point in the supply chain. Many companies complain that beyond their direct suppliers, they lack the leverage to demand information from the Chinese firms that manufacture raw materials and parts.Government restrictions that bar foreigners from unfettered access to sites in Xinjiang have made it difficult for many businesses to investigate their supply chains. New Chinese antisanctions rules, which threaten penalties against companies that comply with U.S. restrictions, have made vetting even more difficult.The Chinese government denies forced labor is used in Xinjiang. Zhao Lijian, a government spokesman, said U.S. politicians were “seeking to contain China and hold back China’s development through political manipulation and economic bullying in the name of ‘human rights.’” He promised a “resolute response” if the bill became law.Lawmakers struggled over the past year to reconcile a more aggressive House version of the legislation with one in the Senate, which gave companies longer timelines to make changes and stripped out the S.E.C. reporting requirement, among other differences.The final bill included a mechanism to create lists of entities and products that use forced labor or aid in the transfer of persecuted workers to factories around China. Businesses like Apple had lobbied for the creation of such lists, believing they would provide more certainty for businesses seeking to avoid entities of concern.Lisa Friedman More

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    Debt Ceiling Window Is Narrowing, Bipartisan Policy Center Warns

    The United States faces a default sometime between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28 if Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, a Washington think tank warned on Friday.The projection from the think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, was a narrower window than it provided last month, and the nonpartisan group suggested that the actual deadline, or X-date, could be toward the earlier end of that range.Democrats and Republicans appear to have tempered their tone around raising the debt limit this time around. While lawmakers have not settled on a path to lifting the borrowing cap, they are exploring a series of ways to raise it, including some that could ultimately hand more power to the White House to avoid the kind of standoffs that have routinely crippled Washington.Republicans continue to publicly insist that Democrats must act alone to address the issue, while Democrats have countered that raising the borrowing cap is a shared responsibility given that both political parties have incurred big debts over the last several years.“Those who believe the debt limit can safely be pushed to the back of the December legislative pileup are misinformed,” said Shai Akabas, the director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Congress would be flirting with financial disaster if it leaves for the holiday recess without addressing the debt limit.”Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned lawmakers in November that the United States could be unable to pay its bills soon after Dec. 15. During testimony before the Senate Banking Committee this week, she underscored the urgency of the matter.“I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue,” Ms. Yellen said. “America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”In September, Ms. Yellen called for the debt limit to be eliminated, explaining that it had become a destructive policy that posed unnecessary risks to the economy. After approaching the first default in American history, Congress in October raised the statutory debt limit by $480 billion, an amount the Treasury Department estimated would allow the government to continue borrowing through early December.Congressional leaders have been quietly discussing ways to address the debt ceiling, after Republicans warned that they would not help Democrats clear the 60-vote threshold needed to break a Republican filibuster against legislation to raise the borrowing cap.Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have spoken repeatedly in recent weeks about the issue, but they have remained tight-lipped in public about a possible solution.The debate has been further complicated by former President Donald J. Trump and his continued influence over the Republican Party. He has repeatedly railed at Mr. McConnell and the other Republican senators who backed a procedural vote in October that cleared the way for Democrats to raise the debt limit.But Mr. McConnell, while pushing for Democrats to raise the borrowing cap without help from his conference, pledged this week that a default would be avoided.Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, second from left, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, center, have spoken repeatedly in recent weeks about the debt ceiling.Al Drago for The New York Times“Let me assure everyone the government will not default, as it never has,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday. Pressed further, he added, “We’re having useful discussions about the way forward.”Cut out of both the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed in March and the $2.2 trillion climate, tax and spending plan that Democrats are trying to push through the Senate, Republicans have refused to help Democrats accommodate debt incurred by both parties. They have taken that position even though leaders of both parties signed off on the spending that helped the debt balloon.Democrats, in turn, have balked at a Republican demand to use a fast-track process known as budget reconciliation to raise the debt limit without Republican votes. Democrats used the process to pass the coronavirus relief package and they are using it again for the climate, tax and spending plan, but they have argued that Republicans should help keep the government from defaulting.Understand the U.S. Debt CeilingCard 1 of 6What is the debt ceiling? More

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    Stocks Hit a Record as Investors See Progress Toward a Spending Deal

    After weeks of fluctuations driven in part by Washington gridlock, share prices hit another high and put a dismal September in the rearview mirror.Wall Street likes what it’s hearing from Washington lately.The S&P 500 inched to a new high on Thursday, continuing a rally aided by signs of progress in spending talks that could pave the way for an injection of some $3 trillion into the U.S. economy.The index rose 0.3 percent to 4,549.78, its seventh straight day of gains and a fresh peak after more than a month of volatile trading driven by nervousness over the still-wobbly economic recovery and policy fights in Washington.The S&P 500’s performance this year

    Source: S&P Dow Jones IndicesBy The New York TimesBut even baby steps by lawmakers have helped end a market swoon that began in September.Share prices began to rise this month when congressional leaders struck a deal to allow the government to avoid breaching the debt ceiling, ending a standoff that threatened to make it impossible for the country to pay its bills. The rally has gained momentum as investors and analysts grow increasingly confident about a government spending package using a recipe Wall Street can live with: big enough to bolster economic growth, but with smaller corporate tax increases than President Biden’s original $3.5 trillion spending blueprint.“It seems like we’re kind of reaching a middle ground,” said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer, multi-asset strategies at Voya Investment Management. “The president himself has acknowledged it’s not going to be $3.5 trillion, it’s going to be something less. The tax hikes are not going to be as much as the left really wanted.”Share prices had marched steadily higher for much of the summer, hitting a series of highs and cresting on Sept. 2. But a number of anxieties sapped their momentum as the certainty that markets crave began to evaporate. Gridlock over government spending, continuing supply chain snarls, higher prices for businesses and consumers and the Federal Reserve’s signals that it would begin dialing back its stimulus efforts all helped sour investor confidence. The S&P 500’s 4.8 percent drop in September was its worst month since the start of the pandemic.It has made up for it in October, rising 5.6 percent this month. But it’s not just updates out of Washington that have renewed investors’ optimism.The country has seen a sharp drop in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, raising, once again, the prospect that economic activity can begin to normalize. And the recent round of corporate earnings results that began in earnest this month has started better than many analysts expected. Large Wall Street banks, in particular, reported blockbuster results fueled by juicy fees paid to the banks’ deal makers, thanks to a surge of merger activity.Elsewhere, shares of energy giants have also buoyed the broad stock market. The price of crude oil recently climbed back above $80 a barrel for the first time in roughly seven years, translating into an instant boost to revenues for energy companies.But the recent rally seemed find its footing two weeks ago. On Oct. 6, word broke that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was willing to offer a temporary reprieve allowing Congress to raise the debt ceiling. The market turned on a dime from its morning slump, finishing the day in positive territory. That week turned out to be the market’s best since August.Once done as a matter of course in Washington, raising the debt ceiling has been an increasingly contentious issue in recent years — with sometimes serious implications for the market. In August 2011, a rancorous battle over the debt ceiling sent share prices tumbling sharply as investors began to consider the prospect that the United States could actually default on its debts.But the recent deal on the ceiling — even though it only pushed a reckoning into December — suggested to investors that there’s little appetite in Washington for a replay of a decade ago.“I think that let some pressure out of the system,” said Alan McKnight, chief investment officer of Regions Asset Management. “What it signaled to the markets was that you can find some area of agreement. It may not be very large. But at least they can come together.”With the impasse broken, the rally gained strength. Last Thursday, the S&P 500 jumped 1.7 percent — its best day in roughly seven months — as financial giants like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America reported stellar results.Potential progress on a deal in Washington has only brightened investors’ outlook.“Democrats are now moving in the same direction, and hard decisions are being made,” wrote Dan Clifton, an analyst with Strategas Research, who monitors the impact of policy on financial markets, in a note to clients on Wednesday.Understand the U.S. Debt CeilingCard 1 of 6What is the debt ceiling? More

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    Biden's Paid Leave Plan at Risk as Lawmakers Seek Cuts

    An initial proposal to offer workers 12 weeks of paid leave could be whittled down as Democrats try to trim their $3.5 trillion social policy bill.WASHINGTON — Christina Hayes, 34, stopped going to the doctor for treatment of her lupus when she was pregnant and working at a cable company in Michigan in 2013. She had used up her vacation days, and without paid sick leave, she worried about paying her rent and electricity bill if she took more time off.But after her blood pressure spiked, her doctors induced labor two months early, fearing that she might have a seizure. She and her baby ended up being fine, but Ms. Hayes, now an airline gate agent in Inkster, Mich., said that having paid leave would have allowed her to prioritize her health over her paycheck.“I would have been able to schedule doctor’s appointments better,” she said. “I might not have gone into premature labor.”Paid leave, a cornerstone of President Biden’s economic agenda, is one of the many proposals at risk of being scaled back or left out of an expansive social safety net bill that Democrats are trying to push through Congress. Mr. Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion plan called for providing up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, caretakers for seriously ill family members and people suffering from a serious medical condition. Democrats proposed compensating workers for at least two-thirds of their earnings and funding the program with higher taxes on wealthy people and corporations.But as Democrats try to shave hundreds of billions off the overall policy package to appease moderate holdouts, paid leave could wind up shrinking to just a few weeks. That is alarming supporters of paid leave, who view this as the best chance to secure a crucial safety net for workers, particularly women.Researchers and economists say a federal paid leave program could provide a jolt to the labor market, lifting women’s participation in the labor force and increasing the likelihood that mothers return to work after having children. Research also has shown that paid leave policies would be particularly beneficial for people of color and low-wage workers, who are among those least likely to get such a benefit from their jobs.Only 23 percent of private-sector workers have paid family leave through their employers, and 42 percent have access to personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability insurance policy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, workers at companies with at least 50 employees can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The United States is the only rich country without a federal paid leave mandate for new parents or for medical emergencies.Paid leave advocates say they have received assurances from the White House and congressional leadership that Democrats are continuing to push for the proposed program.“We’re a critical voting bloc,” said Molly Day, the executive director of Paid Leave for the United States. “Women are not going to forget the decisions that were made now when we go to the ballot box.”Negotiators have discussed ways to bring down the cost of the program, such as reducing the number of weeks offered or the maximum benefit an individual could receive each month, according to people familiar with the talks. Lawmakers have also discussed trimming the number of weeks initially offered, then phasing in a 12-week benefit over a decade.Many top Democrats say they remain committed to the original paid leave plan and have urged their colleagues in Congress and the Biden administration to keep the program intact.Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat of Connecticut, said she was worried about how the program might be pared back, particularly if the benefit is phased in.“I am concerned at how long it will take us to get to that 12 weeks,” Ms. DeLauro said. “It shouldn’t take 10 years to do that.”Some Democrats say passing a federal paid leave program has become more crucial amid a global pandemic that has exposed the need for workers to have access to medical and sick leave without worrying about how they will pay their bills. The social policy legislation is being fast-tracked through the Senate using a process known as reconciliation.“If we really want to achieve paid leave in the next decade, now is the only moment, through reconciliation,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said. “If you want to get everyone working who wants to be working, paid leave has to be part of the strategy.”Research on California, the first state to offer paid family leave, has mostly shown that paid leave has a positive effect on women’s wages and participation in the labor force. Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed paid leave programs.Christopher J. Ruhm, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia, found that under California’s paid leave law, new mothers who had worked during their pregnancy were estimated to be 17 percent more likely to have returned to work within a year of their child’s birth. During the second year of their child’s life, mothers’ time spent at work increased.“The evidence is pretty strong that we’d see favorable effects,” Mr. Ruhm said. “It’s not going to lead to a huge increase in employment or labor force participation of women, but it would be a modest one.”Maya Rossin-Slater, an associate professor of health policy at Stanford University, said research found that policies offering up to one year of paid leave can increase labor participation among women after childbirth. Under California’s program, the biggest gain in leave-taking is seen for Black mothers, who became more likely to take maternity leave, according to Ms. Rossin-Slater’s research.“Implementation of paid family leave can reduce inequities,” Ms. Rossin-Slater said.Pepper Nappo, 33, a mother in Derry, N.H., said she was left alone to take care of her newborn son the day she was discharged from the hospital in 2016. She had required stitches after childbirth.As a barber, she did not have paid parental leave, and her husband could not afford to take more than a week off from his job at a landscaping company. The family downgraded their car and limited what they bought at the grocery store but still struggled to keep up with the bills.“If I had paid leave, we wouldn’t have been behind,” Ms. Nappo said.Public support for paid family and medical leave is strong, but Americans tend to differ over specific policies. A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 73 percent of U.S. adults surveyed supported federal funding for paid family and medical leave.Conservatives have signaled an openness to paid leave in recent years, although they have been more vocal about supporting leave for parents than for other types of caregivers or those suffering from illness. Many have also expressed concerns for small businesses. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah reintroduced a proposal last month that would allow new parents to use a portion of their Social Security to fund their own leave after the birth or adoption of a child.While larger businesses have grown open to a paid leave program, some small business groups have pushed back against a federal mandate.Holly S. Wade, the executive director of the research center at the National Federation of Independent Business, said the group was concerned that a paid leave program would burden small employers since it would require more administrative reporting.“While covering the cost of some of these mandates could potentially be helpful, in the way that an owner sees it, it just comes with a lot of paperwork, a lot of confusion and a lot of challenges,” Ms. Wade said.Supporters of paid leave say they are still pushing for 12 weeks to be available immediately, but have conceded that they would accept a permanent program that would phase in the full amount over time. Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, spoke at a rally in Washington, D.C., where she urged lawmakers to keep paid leave in the bill.Valerie Plesch for The New York Times“We are very cleareyed that there are going to be cuts,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, the director of Paid Leave for All. “We think there can be a meaningful program accomplished at less than 12.”Ms. Huckelbridge and other paid leave supporters rallied near the White House last week, urging lawmakers and the Biden administration to keep the benefit in the bill.“There have been troubling signs,” Ms. Huckelbridge said, referring to reports about demands by Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, to reduce the bill’s size and scope. More

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    Funding Fight Threatens Plan to Pump Billions Into Affordable Housing

    A federal voucher program is at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash its social policy package to appease two centrist senators.SAN FRANCISCO — Audrey Sylve, a retired bus driver, has spent 13 agonizing years on a waiting list for a federal voucher that would help cover rent for an apartment in one of America’s most expensive housing markets.This summer it seemed that help was finally on the way.In late July, congressional Democrats introduced a $322 billion plan to bolster low-income housing programs as part of the $3.5 trillion social spending plan embraced by President Biden. At its center is a $200 billion infusion of aid for the country’s poorest tenants, which would allow another 750,000 households to participate in a program that currently serves two million families.Affordable-housing advocates saw it as a once-in-a-generation windfall that would allow local governments to move thousands of low-income tenants like Ms. Sylve, 72, off waiting lists and to expand aid to families at the highest risk of homelessness.But optimism has given way to anxiety. Low-income housing, and the voucher program in particular, are among those most at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash the package to accommodate the demands of two centrist Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, according to several people involved in the talks.Congressional negotiators are seeking to cut the overall size of the 10-year package, in coordination with the White House, to between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion. Housing is just one of several high-price priorities on the chopping block in the negotiations.Yet proponents say no other proposal is likely to have as immediate an effect on the lives of the country’s most vulnerable as the increase in rental assistance because it addresses a foundational problem: securing an affordable place to live when rents everywhere are outpacing earnings.“I’m all for funding early childhood education, child care and the expansion of health care with education, but we cannot be successful with any of that unless people have safe and secure housing,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who leads the House Financial Services Committee, which drafted the original plan.Supporters of the expansion say every penny is required to begin addressing a crisis that threatens to undermine recent gains in the fight to reduce poverty. They fear it will be elbowed aside by other programs, such as universal child care, that enjoy broader political support because they benefit middle-class, and not just poor, people.“Better health care or increased educational access doesn’t do much for families sleeping in their car or under a bridge, or for the millions more on the verge,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which is pressuring the White House to fund the program as it was drafted. “There are no ‘savings’ to be had here.”The financial services industry, which puts together the complex public-private financing packages used to build most affordable developments, has already factored in a significantly scaled-back congressional compromise.“Much of the proposed $400 billion in housing-related grants and tax subsidies is likely to be cut from the reconciliation bill,” analysts from Goldman Sachs wrote in an email last week. That figure bundled the $332 billion package, which also includes increases for public housing authorities and an affordable housing construction fund, with a smaller package of tax breaks in the bill.White House officials say they have made no decisions. Ms Waters and her counterpart in the Senate, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat of Ohio, said they would not accept any deal that cut the housing plan more than any other proposal.“We’re not going to scale back. We’re not going to lose our way on this,” Mr. Brown, chairman of the Banking Committee, said in an interview. “And we’re not going to compromise the mission of transforming the fight on poverty.”The White House is looking for ways to win support for its package from Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesOver the past two decades, the federal government has stopped bankrolling construction of government-run public housing projects. Instead, it has shifted resources to voucher programs, which bridge the financial gap between what a poor tenant can afford to pay and what a landlord might reasonably expect to get on the open market.Demand far outstrips supply: One recent study found that the federal government has provided funding for only a quarter of the vouchers needed to help house eligible families — and many housing authorities have simply stopped taking names to avoid leaving tenants in the lurch.Even if the voucher increase somehow makes it past Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, it would represent only a down payment on an enormous unmet need for housing aid exacerbated by rocketing real estate values in most major cities.California’s estimated share of the new aid would bankroll only a fraction of the new vouchers needed to meet the demand, said Matthew Schwartz, president of the California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that works with community groups to finance low-income housing projects.But it would be a significant improvement, Mr. Schwartz said, particularly on top of a $22 billion affordable-housing plan that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this summer.Joseph Villarreal, executive director of the housing authority of Contra Costa County, outside San Francisco, is less concerned about the future than fulfilling the promises he has made in the past. He saw the new cash in personal terms, as a way to fulfill a commitment more than a decade in arrears.“It would be horrible if any, much less the majority, if this voucher money gets cut from the proposal,” he said.Mr. Villarreal’s organization, which serves as a pass-through for federal funding, maintains 51 separate waiting lists for the vouchers — some for specific developments, others for targeted demographic groups, with 47,000 families in limbo. “It weighs on me,” he said of the lists.Ms. Sylve, who said she was scraping by on a small pension and Social Security, was one of 6,000 chosen from 40,000 qualified Contra Costa County applicants in a lottery to be added to the slow-moving queue for the program, which is still known by its historical name, Section 8.A few years ago she was told that a voucher was about to become available, but that fell through, and she has spent much of the past 13 years hopping from apartment to apartment. Last spring, Ms. Sylve moved in with her daughter across the bay in San Francisco, because the neighborhood around her apartment had become too dangerous.“They give you hope, and that’s the hardest part,” Ms. Sylve said. “But you keep hoping, year after year after year.”A survey of 44 large housing authorities across the country conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, painted a grim picture of the voucher program. A total of 737,000 people were on waiting lists, and 32 of the authorities are refusing to take new applications, with a few exceptions for particularly vulnerable populations.The situation on the West Coast was especially dire, with eight times as many people lingering on waiting lists as receiving aid in San Diego, where the list has topped 108,000. Long waiting lists are also a staple in Washington, Philadelphia, Houston, Honolulu, Little Rock, Ark., and New York, which closed its list years ago.Will Fischer, director for housing policy for the center, said bolstering the voucher program was the most important single move the federal government could make to address the homelessness crisis.“Look, the public housing money is urgently needed — but it would be for existing units, for families who already have a place to live,” he said. “And most of the other funding in the proposal actually serves people a little bit higher up the income scale.”Representative Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat whose district is among the poorest in the country, said housing always seemed to be listed as the third, fourth or fifth priority of many liberal lawmakers.When House Democrats peppered Mr. Biden with questions about the social spending package at a meeting in the Capitol this month, Mr. Torres — a former chairman of the New York City Council housing committee — was stunned when he realized no one had asked the president about rental aid, and spoke up.Mr. Biden responded by promising he would “protect” housing, without elaborating, Mr. Torres said. 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    As Democrats Trim Spending Bill, Some Americans Fear Being Left Behind

    President Biden had an ambitious agenda to remake the economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of proposals, some of them indefinitely.WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for President Biden’s economic agenda, and Jennifer Mount, a home health care aide, worries that means she will not get the raise she needs to pay more than $3,000 in medical bills for blindness in one eye.Edison Suasnavas, who came to the United States from Ecuador as a child, has grown anxious about the administration’s efforts to establish a pathway to citizenship, which he hoped would allow him to keep doing molecular tests for cancer patients in Utah without fear of deportation.And Amy Stelly wonders — thanks to a winnowing of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in neighborhoods harmed by previous infrastructure projects like highways that have harmed communities of color — whether she will continue to breathe fumes from a freeway that she says constantly make her home in New Orleans shudder. She has a message for the president and the Democrats who are in the process of trying to pack his sprawling agenda into a diminishing legislative package.“You come up and live next to this,” Ms. Stelly said. “You live this quality of life. We suffer while you debate.”Mr. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging agenda to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely.He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color. Now, as the president tries to secure votes from moderates in his party, he is reducing what was originally a $3.5 trillion collection of tax cuts and spending programs to what could be a package of $2 trillion or less.That is still an enormous spending package, one that Mr. Biden argues could shift the landscape of the economy. But a wide range of Americans who have put their faith in his promises to reshape their jobs and lives are left to hope that the programs they are banking on will survive the cut; otherwise, they face the prospect of waiting years or perhaps decades for another window of opportunity in Washington.“The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time,” said Jason Furman, an economist at the Harvard Kennedy School who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “It could be five, 10, 20 years before there’s another shot at a lot of these issues.”President Biden entered the White House with an expensive and ambitious agenda to remake the U.S. economy. He has pared back those plans.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Furman and other former Obama administration officials saw firsthand how quickly a presidential agenda can shrink, and how presidential and congressional decisions can leave campaign priorities unaddressed for years. Mr. Obama prioritized an economic stimulus package and the creation of the Affordable Care Act over sweeping immigration and climate legislation in the early years of his presidency.Stimulus and health care passed. The other two did not. A similar fate now could befall Mr. Biden’s plans for home care workers, paid leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, investments in racial equity and, once again, immigration and climate change.If Mr. Biden is able to push through a compromise bill with major investments in emissions reduction, “he’s got an engine that he’s working with” to fight climate change, said John Podesta, a former top aide to Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If he can’t get it, then I think, you know, we’re really kind of in soup, facing a major crisis.”Republicans have criticized the spending and the tax increases that would help fund it, claiming that the Democratic package would hurt the economy. Democrats “just have an insatiable appetite to raise taxes and spend more money,” Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” this week. “It would kill jobs.”Amy Stelly said she wondered whether she would continue to breathe fumes from the Claiborne Expressway, which is near her home in New Orleans.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe threat of Republican filibusters has blocked Mr. Biden’s plans for gun and voting-rights legislation.For now, though, the president’s biggest problem is his own party. He is negotiating with progressives and moderates over the size of the larger tax and spending package. Centrists like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed for the price tag to fall below $2 trillion. Mr. Manchin has said he wants to limit the availability of some programs to lower- and middle-income earners. Progressive groups are jockeying to ensure that their preferred plans are not cut entirely from the bill.The House has proposed investing $190 billion in home health care, for example, less than half of what Mr. Biden initially asked for. If the price tag continues to decrease, Democrats would almost certainly have to choose between two concurrent aims: expanding access to older Americans in need of caretakers or raising the wages of those workers, a group that is disproportionately women of color.Another proposal included in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure bill was an investment of $20 billion to address infrastructure that has splintered communities of color, although the funding was slashed to $1 billion through a compromise with Republican senators.Ms. Stelly thought the funds, plus the president’s sweeping proposals to address climate change — which might also be narrowed to appease centrist Democrats — would finally result in elected officials addressing the highway emissions that have filled her lungs and darkened the windows of her home.Ms. Stelly, an urban designer, has since limited her expectations. She said she hoped the funding would be enough to at least issue another study of the highway, which claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses and the once-thriving neighborhood of Tremé.The Claiborne Expressway bisects the residential neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans. Ms. Stelly said she hoped the funding would be enough for another study on the effects of the highway.William Widmer for The New York TimesSome Democrats are eager to pack as much as they can into the bill because they fear losing the House, the Senate or both in the midterm elections next year. Mr. Podesta has urged lawmakers to see the package as a chance to avoid those losses by giving Democratic incumbents a batch of popular programs to run on, and also giving the president policy victories that could define his legacy.Mr. Biden has promoted some of his policies as ways to reverse racial disparities in the economy and lift families that are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic from poverty.Ms. Mount, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, said she was appreciative of her job helping older Americans and the disabled eat and bathe and assisting them in their homes. But her wages for her long hours — working about 50 hours a week for $400, at times — have made it effectively impossible to stay on top of payments for basic needs.She had hoped Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage or salaries for home health care aides meant she would no longer need to choose between her electric bills and her medical expenses. She said the treatment had improved her blindness, but without a salary increase for her field, she is more convinced that she will be working for the rest of her life.“I have to make a choice: Do I go to the grocery store or pay my mortgage? Do I pay my water bill or pay my electric bill?” said Ms. Mount, who lives in Philadelphia. “With that, retirement looks B-L-E-A-K, all uppercase. What do I have there for retirement?”When Mr. Biden initially proposed two years of free community college, Ms. Mount, 64, was encouraged about future opportunities for her six grandchildren in the United States. But she fears that effort could also be cut.“That’s politics from on top,” she said. “At times, they always seem detached.”Protesters gathered in front of the White House in August in support of the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSome measures that Democrats have long promised voters have run afoul of Senate rules that dictate which policies the administration should include in bills that use a special process to bypass the filibuster, including a minimum-wage increase and a plan to offer citizenship to immigrants brought to the United States as children.When the Senate parliamentarian rejected the strategy, it made Mr. Suasnavas, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, consider the prospect of eventually being deported; he would have to leave behind his job as a medical technology specialist, and his 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.“We’ve been having the hopes that politicians in Washington — Democrats and Republicans — will see not only the economic impact we can bring to the country but also we’re still people with families,” said Mr. Suasnavas, 35. “Our hearts have been broken so many times that it feels like another wound in your skin.” More