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Biden Moves Cautiously on Health Care

Biden starts turning back Trump’s attacks on Obamacare, and General Motors makes a big commitment. It’s Friday, and this is your politics tip …

Biden starts turning back Trump’s attacks on Obamacare, and General Motors makes a big commitment. It’s Friday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

  • President Biden yesterday continued his rat-a-tat run through the major policy areas he focused on during the campaign, issuing a range of executive actions and directives on health care. He ordered the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces reopened to let people buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic find coverage.

  • He also moved to reinstitute coverage mandates that former President Donald Trump had undermined, including those for people with certain medical conditions. And he rolled back Trump-era restrictions on Medicaid and took steps to restore federal support to clinics that counsel patients on abortion.

  • But as he signed the orders in the Oval Office, Biden acknowledged that they did not represent the sorts of bold steps forward that he had taken on climate the day before. “The best way to describe them: to undo the damage Trump has done,” he said. “There’s nothing new that we’re doing here, other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was.”

  • Quietly, a debate continues to rage in the Democratic Party over how far to push for a health care overhaul, including proposals such as a public option or so-called Medicare for all. With a number of pressing issues competing for priority, few lawmakers have expressed enthusiasm about diving back into a policy clash on one of the most politically complicated issues.

  • But about 15 million Americans remain uninsured and are eligible for marketplace coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It also estimates that up to three million people have lost employer-based coverage during the pandemic.

  • In the age of populist revolts and anti-elite crusades, we ought to have known that Wall Street traders would get some kind of comeuppance. And across parties, politicians are feeling obligated to side with the insurgents, no matter where they usually come down on matters of Wall Street regulation.

  • What no one knew is that the inevitable fight would center on a struggling brick-and-mortar video game retailer called GameStop. With two hedge funds betting that GameStop’s value would fall, a swarm of Reddit users this week led a successful campaign to send the stock price surging instead. The internet-based caper raised GameStop’s market value to over $24 billion from $2 billion, and caused billions in losses at the hedge funds.

  • Robinhood, a popular app that targets everyday users by offering no-fee trading and a user-friendly process, said yesterday morning that it was limiting purchases of the kinds of securities that prompted the GameStop rally. This caused GameStop’s stock value to plummet (it later regained value in after-hours trading) and led to an outcry from politicians in both parties, who were eager to get on the right side of what they called obvious Wall Street hypocrisy.

  • Republicans including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive Democrats in condemning Robinhood’s decision. By the afternoon, the company had committed to allowing “limited buys of these securities.”

  • Some Senate Democrats said the GameStop hubbub — with a stock’s value being inflated with little regard to the functional value of the company — showed that far stricter regulations on Wall Street trading were needed.

  • “For years, the same hedge funds, private equity firms, and wealthy investors dismayed by the GameStop trades have treated the stock market like their own personal casino while everyone else pays the price,” Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter. “It’s long past time for the SEC and other financial regulators to wake up and do their jobs — and with a new administration and Democrats running Congress, I intend to make sure they do.”

  • Senator Sherrod Brown, the incoming chairman of the Banking Committee, announced yesterday that he planned to hold a hearing on “the current state of the stock market.”

  • General Motors announced yesterday that it would transition entirely to zero-emissions vehicles by 2035, setting a new bar for fuel efficiency goals in the auto industry.

  • The news signaled that Biden and other leaders may encounter diminished resistance from big business as they try to shift away from fossil fuels in a last-ditch effort to fight back the most perilous effects of climate change. A move away from the combustion engine would rattle the oil and gas industry but greatly reduce carbon emissions.

  • Democrats in the Senate yesterday selected Gary Peters, a moderate senator from Michigan who fended off a strong G.O.P. challenger last fall, to run their campaign arm in 2022.

  • Peters said he hoped to draw on his experience in last year’s campaign during what will be a challenging and complex election year. Any time a new president reaches the midterm elections, that president’s party is likely to lose seats. But the Senate map is looking relatively favorable for Democrats again in 2022, and they have their sights set on possible seat pickups in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

  • On the Republican side, Representative Jim Jordan’s campaign office announced yesterday that he would not be running for the Ohio Senate seat in 2022. Senator Rob Portman said this week that he would not run for re-election, and Jordan, a staunch Trump ally, was widely seen as having the best shot at capturing the G.O.P. nomination.

  • “Mr. Jordan believes that at this time he is better suited to represent Ohioans in the House of Representatives, where, as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, he can advance an America first agenda, promote conservative values and hold big government accountable,” a spokesman for Jordan’s congressional campaign said.

  • If you were thinking that Trump would disappear from politics by 2022, maybe think again. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader in the House, who just weeks ago strongly criticized the president for his role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, flew to Florida yesterday to meet with Trump. The two discussed strategy for winning back the House majority in the midterms, according to a readout of the meeting provided by Trump’s political action committee Save America.

Photo of the day

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

With Vice President Kamala Harris looking on, Biden signed executive orders and memorandums on health care yesterday.

How Republicans in Congress legitimized extremist groups

By Luke Broadwater

Nearly 150 Republicans in Congress supported Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But a handful of Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories, and whose members were among the Capitol rioters on Jan. 6.

As my colleague Matthew Rosenberg and I reported in a new article, their ranks include Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, who has met with members of the far-right Oath Keepers and vilified Muslim immigrants as a “scourge”; Representative Andy Biggs, also of Arizona, the chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, who has spoken at events hosted by extremists, including one at which a founder of the Oath Keepers called for hanging Senator John McCain; Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who has connections to the militia group the Three Percenters, which shares her view that gun rights are under assault; and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has for years trafficked in conspiracy theories including QAnon, which demonizes Democrats as Satanists, and who has made bigoted remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims.

While the Republicans’ false statements about a stolen election played a role in inciting the Capitol attack, it is not clear if any elected officials played a direct role in facilitating the riot. All have denied such allegations. A spokesman for Boebert wrote in an email, “Simply because she takes a photo with someone that asks for one doesn’t mean she endorses every single belief they have or agrees with all other public statements or causes they support.”

But in signaling either overt or tacit support to militias and other far-right groups, a small but vocal band of Republicans now serving in the House provided legitimacy and publicity to the extremist groups as they supported Trump’s efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election and played a prominent role in the attack on Congress.

Aitan D. Goelman, a former federal prosecutor who helped convict the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, said that when elected officials — or even candidates for office — take actions like appearing with militia groups or other right-wing groups, it “provides them with an added imprimatur of legitimacy.”

New York Times Audio

The filibuster and the economy

On yesterday’s episode of “The Daily,” our congressional editor, Julie Davis, explored the filibuster debate. Listen in to learn more about the history and fate of the tactic.

And on the latest episode of “The Ezra Klein Show,” the columnist Paul Krugman joined Ezra for a deep discussion on the current state of America’s economy, why what is happening is unique, and the various economic theories regarding how government should respond. You can listen here.

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