President Biden on Monday touted the “shots in arms and money in pockets” that his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package will provide as he spoke at the White House, kicking off a week in which he and other key administration officials will crisscross the country promoting the new law.

As the “Help Is Here” tour unfolds, the Senate is moving ahead on confirming more of Biden’s nominees for key administration posts. The Senate on Monday confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as interior secretary, the first Native American to hold a Cabinet-level post and only the third woman to lead the Interior Department.

Here’s what to know:

  • Biden has tapped Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic economic policy expert, to oversee the implementation of his stimulus package, the White House announced Monday.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should seriously consider whether he can continue to govern effectively as he faces multiple sexual harassment allegations. Pelosi stopped short of saying that Cuomo (D) should resign.
  • Several Democrats have called on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to step down after he said he didn’t feel threatened during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — but would have been concerned had the mob been made up of Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters. Johnson defended his comments Monday, saying he didn’t believe they were racist.
1:11 a.m.
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Pelosi releases draft proposal for bipartisan Jan. 6 commission

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday released a discussion draft that she sent to Republican leaders last month for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Some details of the proposal have already been reported, such as Pelosi’s proposal that the president appoint three of the panel’s members while each of the top four congressional leaders appoint two. But the full draft had not been publicly released before Monday.

According to Pelosi’s proposal, the goal of the commission would be to gather facts about the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, which is described as a “domestic terrorist attack,” as well as to “identify, review, and evaluate the causes of and the lessons learned” from the attack “and other targeted violence and domestic terrorism” related to it.

Republicans have sharply criticized Pelosi’s proposal for not dividing the membership of the commission equally between the two parties. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last month blasted the proposed panel “partisan by design” and argued it would lack legitimacy if both parties weren’t equally represented.

Pelosi has indicated that the ratio of commissioners is open to negotiation. But deep divisions remain over any future commission’s authority, with the speaker’s proposal putting a heavy emphasis on examining the insurrection’s ties to domestic extremist groups, including white supremacists.

Leading Republicans have balked at what they say is a too “narrow” focus. In recent weeks, McConnell has called for the commission to examine “political violence” writ large — a nod to the fact that some Republicans do not want members of the panel to look into pro-Trump groups without also taking a look at the left-leaning groups that were active during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

In a letter to House Democrats on Monday on the topic of Capitol security, Pelosi also confirmed that the miles of fencing that have surrounded the Capitol for the past two months will soon come down.

In response to the Capitol Police determination that “there does not exist a known, credible threat” that warrants the fencing, “alterations to the temporary fencing around the Capitol will soon be made, and the National Guard presence will also begin to draw down,” Pelosi said in the letter.

12:47 a.m.
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Coca-Cola, Home Depot come out in opposition to Georgia voting restrictions

Civil liberties groups are ratcheting up pressure on major corporations based in Georgia — including Coca-Cola, Aflac, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot and UPS — to oppose a Republican-led effort to make it harder to vote in the Peach State.

It’s a continuation of a dynamic that emerged after the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on the erroneous belief that widespread fraud handed the 2020 election to President Biden: Facing intractable opposition from lawmakers determined to restrict voting, voting-rights advocates are taking their case directly to Republican lawmakers’ allies in the business community.

On Friday, the advocates scored a win when the Georgia Chamber of Commerce issued a statement expressing “concern and opposition” to the measures under consideration in the legislature, which would end no-excuse absentee voting, limit early voting hours, restrict drop-boxes for mail ballots, and curtail early voting on Sundays.

10:22 p.m.
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Capitol Police officer suspended after antisemitic document found at checkpoint

U.S. Capitol Police suspended an officer Monday after a copy of an infamous antisemitic tract was found near a Capitol Hill security post Sunday, alarming a congressional aide who viewed the document in plain sight at the checkpoint.

Photographs provided to The Washington Post show a printed copy of the Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion sitting on a table inside an entrance of the Longworth House Office Building.

The Post provided the photographs to the Capitol Police on Monday morning and requested comment. The department said Monday evening that Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman had suspended an officer pending an investigation “after anti-Semitic reading material was discovered near his work area on Sunday.”

“We take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously,” Pittman said in the statement. “Once this matter was brought to my attention, I immediately ordered the officer to be suspended until the Office of Professional Responsibility can thoroughly investigate.”

9:51 p.m.
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Rep. Escobar accuses Rep. McCarthy of stoking fear, using Latino community as ‘a prop’ during border visit

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.), whose district includes El Paso, on Monday criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, accusing him of stoking fear of immigrants and using the Latino community as “a prop.”

Escobar made the comments in a conference call with reporters hours after McCarthy held a news conference in El Paso.

“When I learned that Leader McCarthy would be coming into my district and into my community, I sent him a letter” offering to connect him with people on the ground, Escobar said. “I also cautioned him … and asked him to be mindful about the fact that the words that he and our colleagues use have great power, and they have great consequences, as well.”

When leaders use rhetoric that stokes fear, Escobar argued, communities like El Paso “pay the price.” She cited the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, in which the suspect said he was targeting “Mexicans.”

“I wish I could accept that Leader McCarthy and my colleagues went into my community to actually find solutions,” Escobar said. “But the fact of the matter is, the purpose of the trip was twofold.” She accused them of trying to “distract” from last week’s passage of the American Rescue Plan and using the “go-to topic” of immigration as a means of dividing Americans.

“My community becomes a prop for them so they can continue to fuel the divisions” in the country, Escobar said.

Escobar also pushed back against the assertion by McCarthy and other Republicans that individuals on the national terrorist watch list — from countries as far away as China — are entering the United States via the southern border.

“You saw it in their eyes,” McCarthy said earlier Monday, referring to the border agents he spoke with during his trip. “They talked about, ‘They’re on the list.’ … The terrorist watch list.”

Escobar told reporters that she had held a meeting recently with border agents and that no mention was made of terrorism suspects crossing the border.

8:40 p.m.
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Analysis: Ron Johnson keeps digging

Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) yet again caused controversy by saying what he really thought about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Having previously downplayed the severity of it and raised a debunked conspiracy theory that it might not have been perpetrated by supporters of former president Donald Trump, Johnson said he never truly felt threatened. His reason: Because, in his words, “those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” He said he would have felt more threatened if Black Lives Matter or antifa were behind the riot.

On Monday, Johnson kept digging.

In an appearance on a local Wisconsin radio show, Johnson fought back against allegations of racism for invoking BLM and saying he would have been more scared if it had been behind it.

But there are several problems with his defense.

One is that he proclaimed to be surprised by the backlash.

“I completely did not anticipate that anybody could interpret what I said as racist,” Johnson said. “It’s not. This is about rioters.”

Johnson also referred to the “innocuous statement that I made, never anticipated [my opponents] would turn it into what they always turn the debate into: racism.”

That doesn’t really fit with what Johnson said last week, though. In the course of making his controversial points to conservative radio host Joe Pagliarulo, Johnson acknowledged that his comments would “get me in trouble.”

8:10 p.m.
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Harris, Emhoff promote coronavirus relief package in Nevada

Vice President Harris on Monday made a stop in Las Vegas, where she kicked off a swing in the West to promote the coronavirus relief package signed into law by President Biden last week.

Harris toured a vaccination clinic at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and is also scheduled to visit the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas.

“You all are the heroes of this moment,” Harris told those who were administering vaccines at the university’s vaccination site.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff joined Harris on the trip but has his own itinerary. Emhoff visited a food bank and was set to later hold a listening session on food insecurity with members of the Las Vegas community.

Nevada is the location of a competitive Senate race in 2022: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who in 2017 became the first Latina ever to serve in the Senate, is up for reelection.

7:25 p.m.
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Biden administration will use Dallas convention center to shelter migrant teen boys

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will use a Dallas convention center as a temporary shelter for thousands of migrant teenage boys, an emergency measure the Biden administration is taking to alleviate extreme overcrowding at border facilities in South Texas, according to two Homeland Security officials with knowledge of the plans.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas will house boys ages 15 to 17 to free up space in Border Patrol detention cells that are holding record numbers of unaccompanied teenagers and children in deteriorating conditions, the officials said.

The Biden administration mobilized FEMA on Saturday to help cope with a deepening crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, where the number of families and minors arriving without their parents has soared since the president took office.

7:22 p.m.
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In the coronavirus relief package, a prescription to expand Medicaid

Kelly Percival had insurance through her customer service job with a Tampa roofing company when, early last year, she severely fractured her right ankle. After two metal plates and 16 screws to realign her ankle bones and two months off her feet, she called her boss last March to say she could come back to work. Don’t bother, she was told. Amid the newly begun coronavirus pandemic, the company was downsizing.

If Percival, long divorced and now unemployed, lived in most of the United States, she could have turned to Medicaid after her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan disappeared along with her income. Instead, she is among 4 million people the insurance does not reach because they live in one of a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid even as the rest of the country has been widening the health-care safety net.

But the vast coronavirus relief strategy that President Biden signed into law last week might allow Percival to stop skipping the follow-up orthopedic appointments for her ankle that she cannot afford.

7:09 p.m.
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Analysis: The blurry line between combating ‘fraud’ and just making voting harder

In the weeks after the 2020 election, few members of the media were more ostentatiously willing to entertain Donald Trump’s claims of election improprieties than Fox’s Maria Bartiromo. Despite the lack of evidence then or now for any significant voter fraud, Bartiromo has continued to entertain the idea that something nebulously untoward occurred.

On Sunday, she hosted Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) for a discussion of the surge in migrants arriving at his state’s southern border. Toward the end of the interview, Bartiromo also asked Abbott to weigh in on federal legislation aimed at protecting voting access.

Abbott claimed that Democrats were “trying to institutionalize voter fraud” with House Bill 1.

6:39 p.m.
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McCarthy calls migrant influx the ‘Biden border crisis’

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday blamed the president and his administration for problems at the border, calling them the “Biden border crisis.”

“The security of our nation and our border is first and foremost the responsibility of our president. I came down here because I heard of the crisis. It’s more than a crisis — this is human heartbreak,” McCarthy told reporters at the Mexican border in El Paso. “It didn’t have to happen. This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration.”

“There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis,” he added.

McCarthy led a House GOP delegation to Texas amid an increase in migrants arriving at the border, including an unprecedented number of minors arriving without their parents.

Biden officials have not said why they did not anticipate or better prepare for the arrivals after the administration, soon after taking office, said it would no longer turn back minors crossing the border without their parents.

Republicans have blamed Biden’s policy change on the surge.

“President Biden and his minions created an environment causing this surge,” said Rep. Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-Tenn.).

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) called Biden an “okay guy” and urged him to “just admit you made a mistake with this policy and go back to the way it was and keep America safe for all of us.”

Republican lawmakers on Monday also warned about the impact on the ongoing pandemic. “How much spread of covid is he creating every single day by his policies along his border,” McCarthy said. “It’s wrong, and it has to end.”

Biden officials have urged migrants not to travel to the border while they rebuild the system. Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s national security adviser focused on the border, said earlier this month, “The border is not open.”

Nick Miroff contributed to this report.

6:36 p.m.
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Biden says U.S. will surpass 100 million coronavirus shots and 100 million stimulus checks in next 10 days

President Biden on March 15 said the United States will hit two goals in the next 10 days: 100 million covid shots and 100 million distributed stimulus checks. (The Washington Post)

In remarks at the White House Monday, President Biden said the United States will reach two milestones in the next 10 days: the administration of 100 million coronavirus vaccine shots and the distribution of 100 million stimulus checks.

But he also cautioned that the $1.9 trillion relief package, which he signed into law last week, will require careful oversight by his administration. That effort, Biden confirmed, will be led by Gene Sperling, the longtime Democratic economy policy expert whose appointment The Washington Post reported earlier Monday.

“It’s one thing to pass a historic piece of legislation like the American Rescue Plan, and it’s quite another to implement it,” Biden said. “And the devil is in the details. It requires fastidious oversight to make sure the relief arrives quickly, equitably and efficiently with no waste or fraud in your bank account, in your mailbox, to the local business in your community and to your child’s school.”

Biden said he spoke with Sperling Monday and that “he’s ready to get to work; in fact, he’s already hit the ground running.”

“Help is here, and hope is here, in real and tangible ways,” Biden said.

6:30 p.m.
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Biden says local doctors, not Trump, will convince ‘the MAGA folks’ to get vaccinated

Biden dismissed the suggestion that it would be helpful to have former president Donald Trump out advocating for his supporters to get vaccinated, saying his focus is on engaging local doctors and others in communities where people might be skeptical.

Biden said he had talked to his team about the role Trump might play and they told him, “the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say.”

Earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave a similar answer when a reporter asked her to reflect on a comment made by top federal infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci that Trump encouraging his supporters to get vaccinated would be a “game changer.”

Well, if former president Trump woke up tomorrow and wanted to be more vocal about the safety and efficacy of the of the vaccine, certainly we’d support that,” Psaki said. “But also, I think what’s important to note is that, as I noted, 81 percent of Republicans said they would trust their own doctor or health-care provider and that’s an important place to invest.”

“Every other living former president or most of them, if not all of them, has participated in public campaigns. They did not need an engraved invitation to do so,” Psaki added, referring to a public service ad featuring ex-Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

If Trump wanted to help, then “great,” she said, “but there are a lot of different ways to engage, to reach out, to ensure that people of a range of political support and backing know the vaccine is safe and effective.”

5:40 p.m.
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Sen. Johnson said there was ‘no racism involved’ in comments about Capitol rioters

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) continues to defend comments he made last week when he said he did not feel threatened by pro-Trump rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol but would have been concerned if the rioters were Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters. He said Monday he did not believe his comments were racist.

During an interview Monday on WISN’s Dan O’Donnell Show, Johnson said there was “no racism involved.”

Johnson said on Thursday on a conservative news radio show, “The Joe Pags Show,” that he “never felt threatened” by the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 hoping to overturn the results of the election.

“I knew those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned,” Johnson said. But he added that it would have been different if it had been Black Lives Matter or antifa protesters who stormed the Capitol.

“Now, had the tables been turned — now, Joe, this will get me in trouble — had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned,” Johnson said.

On Monday, Johnson said about the comments: “It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with riots,” and noted many participants in Black Lives Matters protests had been White.

“Remember those leftist activists, those protesters, that some of them turned into riots, a lot of them are White,” Johnson said, adding: “So there’s no racism involved in this at all.”

He said he “did not anticipate that anybody could interpret what I said as racist. It’s not. This is about rioters.”

Numerous Democrats condemned the remarks. Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century referred to Johnson’s statements last week as “blatant racism.”

Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

5:23 p.m.
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Psaki says Biden finds allegations against Cuomo ‘troubling,’ wants ‘quick and thorough’ investigation

Biden finds the accusations of sexual harassment against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) “troubling” and wants an investigation initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) to be “both quick and thorough,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Psaki, speaking at a White House news briefing, was asked what message it sends that Biden has not called on Cuomo to resign, as a majority of the New York congressional delegation has.

“Well, let me first say that like everyone who continues to read stories, new developments seem to happen every day,” Psaki said. “We find them troubling. The president finds them troubling, hard to read. And every woman who steps forward needs to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Psaki noted that James has launched “an independent investigation” that is being led by former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne L. Clark.

“And that is appropriate. And the president believes that’s appropriate, as does the vice president,” Psaki said. “The investigation needs to be both quick and thorough, consistent with how serious these allegations are.”

Psaki said Biden has not spoken directly with Cuomo about the allegations and will continue to work with him on matters such as coronavirus relief.

“We don’t want the people of New York or any state to be impacted negatively,” she said. “We will continue to work with a range of governors, including Governor Cuomo.”

In response to a later question, Psaki said the White House was concerned about reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere that Larry Schwartz, a Cuomo ally who is New York’s “vaccine czar," had phoned county officials in the past two weeks in attempts to gauge their loyalty to the embattled governor.

“Certainly we found them concerning about this inappropriate reported behavior,” Psaki said.

However, she said, there are “a number of checks in the system” that would make it more difficult to let politics dictate where vaccines are directed.