A disappointing jobs report released Friday by the Labor Department is posing the greatest test yet of President Biden’s strategy to revive the pandemic economic recovery, with business groups and Republicans pushing the president to end an expanded benefit for the unemployed that they say is causing a labor shortage and risking runaway inflation.
But administration officials say there is no evidence in the report — which found the economy added 266,000 jobs in April, well below the one million jobs many economists expected — that hiring has been slowed by the additional $300 per week that unemployed Americans are currently eligible to receive under the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill that Mr. Biden signed into law in March.
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden urged “perspective” on the report, dismissing negative reactions to the news, including Republican arguments that generous jobless benefits were encouraging workers to sit on the sidelines. The president said it would take time for his aid bill to fully reinvigorate the economy and hailed the more than 1.5 million jobs created on his watch thus far.
“Our efforts are starting to work,” he said. “But the climb is steep, and we’ve got a long way to go.”
“We’re still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs,” he said.
Republicans cast the report as a sign of failure for Mr. Biden’s policies, even though job creation has accelerated since Mr. Biden replaced President Donald J. Trump in the White House. And they called on Mr. Biden to end the $300 per week unemployment supplement.
“This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a news release. “The White House is also in denial that many businesses — both small and large — can’t find the workers they need.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the weak report indicated the more generous jobless benefit was hurting employers.
The jobs report “begins to confirm that this is a barrier — not the only barrier, but a barrier — to filling open positions in the recovery,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. “We absolutely have to begin to make the preparation to turn the supplement off. The sooner we do that, the sooner it’s going to become clear how this has been holding us back.”
Mr. Biden rejected that view and took aim at what he said was “loose talk that Americans just don’t want to work.”
“The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs, and many can’t find them,” he said.
Asked directly by a reporter if he believed the enhanced benefits had any effect on the job gains, Mr. Biden replied, “No, nothing measurable.”
Administration officials stress that the monthly employment numbers are volatile and subject to revision and that the average gain over the last three months remains well above the pace of job creation that Mr. Biden inherited when he took office in January. They say any clogs in the labor market are likely to be temporary and that the recovery will smooth out once more working-age Americans are fully vaccinated.
“This is progress,” Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “We are adding an average of over 500,000 jobs a month” over the last three months, she said. “That’s evidence that our approach is working, that the president’s approach is working. It also emphasizes the steep climb coming out of this crisis.”
Ms. Boushey and Jared Bernstein, another member of the council, both said they saw no evidence in the monthly report that expanded unemployment benefits were deterring Americans from going back to work. They pointed to a gain of 300,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector and to a falling number of workers who told the department they had left the labor force out of concern over contracting Covid-19.
Ms. Boushey and Mr. Bernstein said it appeared the economy was working through a variety of rapid changes related to the pandemic, including supply chain disruptions that have hurt automobile manufacturing by reducing the availability of semiconductor chips and businesses beginning to rehire after a year of depressed activity from the virus.
“It’s our view that these misalignments and bottlenecks are transitory,” Mr. Bernstein said, “and they’re what you expect from an economy going from shutdown to reopening.”
The chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse, stressed the potential uncertainties in interpreting data from the pandemic in a blog post analyzing the report. “There is often month-to-month volatility in the jobs numbers,” she wrote. “However, the same ‘amount’ of volatility is more striking when the volume of changes is larger, as it has been during the pandemic.”
Four former Minneapolis police officers were indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing last year led to months of demonstrations against police violence, the Justice Department announced on Friday.
The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury weeks after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Floyd. The charges are another extraordinary censuring of law enforcement officials, who rarely face criminal charges for using deadly force.
The indictment charges Mr. Chauvin, 45, and other former Minneapolis Police Department officers Tou Thao, 35, J. Alexander Kueng, 27, and Thomas Lane, 38, with willfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional civil rights during his arrest.
The indictment alleges that by holding his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and his right knee on his back and arm as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, Mr. Chauvin used unconstitutional, unreasonable force that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death.
Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng were charged with willfully failing to stop Mr. Chauvin from using unreasonable force. All four defendants saw Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him, depriving him of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which included Mr. Floyd’s right to be free from an officer’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the indictment said.
A second indictment also charged Mr. Chauvin with depriving a teenager of his civil rights during a September 2017 encounter in which the former officer is accused of holding the minor by the throat and striking his head multiple times with a flashlight.
Mr. Chauvin held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teenager, even after the child lay prone, handcuffed and unresisting, and that resulted in injuries, the indictment said.
The latest charges are separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced on April 21. And they are separate from the state charges against Mr. Thao, Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane.
In recent years, the Justice Department has opened civil rights investigations into high-profile assaults and killings of Black people by police officers, but the inquiries have rarely resulted in charges against officers in part because the standard for the federal charge — that in the course of policing, an officer willfully deprived a person of civil rights — is a high bar to meet.
It can be difficult to show that an officer willfully intended to deprive people of their civil rights, former lawyers in the Justice Department’s civil rights division have said. Prosecutors argued against charging Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, in part because they said that Mr. Pantaleo’s intent in putting Mr. Garner in a choke hold was unclear.
“Willfulness is the highest intent standard under criminal law — that the person set out to act with the purpose of depriving someone of their rights,” said Jonathan M. Smith, a former official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division who now serves as executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
Minutes after a group of congressional Democrats unveiled a bill recently to add seats to the Supreme Court, the Iowa Republican Party slammed Representative Cindy Axne, a Democrat and potential Senate candidate, over the issue.
“Will Axne Pack the Court?” was the headline on a statement the party rushed out, saying the move to expand the court “puts our democracy at risk.”
The attack vividly illustrated the emerging Republican strategy for an intensive drive to try to take back the House and the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans are mostly steering clear of Democrats’ economic initiatives that have proved popular, such as an infrastructure package and a stimulus law that coupled pandemic relief with major expansions of safety-net programs.
Instead, they are focusing on polarizing issues that stoke conservative outrage, seizing on measures like the court-expansion bill and calls to defund the police — which many Democrats oppose — and efforts to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants and grant statehood to the District of Columbia to caricature Democrats as extreme.
Republicans are also hammering at issues of race and sexual orientation, seeking to use Democrats’ push to confront systemic racism and safeguard transgender rights as attack lines.
The approach comes as President Biden and Democrats, eager to capitalize on their unified control of Congress and the White House, have become increasingly bold about speaking about such issues and promoting a wide array of party priorities that languished during years of Republican rule. It has given Republicans ample fodder for attacks that have proved potent in the past.
“They are putting the ball on the tee, handing me the club and putting the wind at my back,” said Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.
Democrats argue that Republicans are focusing on side issues and twisting their positions because the G.O.P. has nothing else to campaign on, as Democrats line up accomplishments to show to voters, including the pandemic aid bill that passed without a single Republican vote.
“That was very popular, and I can understand why Republicans don’t want to talk about it,” said Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “But we’re going to keep reminding folks who was there when they needed them.”
Hours after Florida installed a rash of new voting restrictions, the Republican-led Legislature in Texas pressed ahead on Thursday with its own far-reaching bill that would make it one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to cast a ballot.
The Texas bill would, among other restrictions, greatly empower partisan poll watchers, prohibit election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications and impose strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible.
After a lengthy debate that lasted into the early morning hours on Friday, the State House of Representatives passed the measure in a 81-64 vote, largely along party lines, at about 3 a.m., following a flurry of amendments that had been spurred by Democratic protests and a Democratic procedural move known as a point of order.
The new amendments softened some of the initial new penalties proposed for those who run afoul of the rules and added that the police could be called to remove unruly partisan poll watchers. Other amendments added by Democrats sought to expand ballot access, including with changes to ballot layout and with voter registration at high schools. But those amendments could be knocked off by a potential conference committee.
The bill will soon head to the Republican-controlled Senate following a third reading in the House. Gov. Greg Abbott has been supportive of the current voting bills in the legislature.
Briscoe Cain, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said he had filed it “to ensure that we have an equal and uniform application of our election code and to protect people from being taken advantage of.”
He was quickly challenged by Jessica González, a Democratic representative and vice chair of the House Election Committee, who argued that the bill was a solution in search of problem. She cited testimony in which the Texas secretary of state said that the 2020 election had been found to be “free, fair and secure.”
Florida and Texas are critical Republican-led battleground states with booming populations and 70 Electoral College votes between them. The new measures the legislatures are putting in place represent the apex of the current Republican effort to roll back access to voting across the country following the loss of the White House amid historic turnout in the 2020 election.
Earlier on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, with great fanfare, signed his state’s new voting bill, which passed last week.
“Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” Mr. DeSantis said, though he has praised Florida’s handling of last November’s elections.
Ohio, another state under complete Republican control, introduced a new omnibus voting bill on Thursday that would further limit drop boxes in the state, limit ballot collection processes and reduce early in-person voting by one day, while also making improvements to access such as an online absentee ballot request portal and automatic registration at motor vehicle offices.
Iowa and Georgia have already passed bills that not only impose new restrictions but grant those states’ legislatures greater control over the electoral process.
Republicans have pressed forward with these bills over the protests of countless Democrats, civil rights groups, faith leaders, voting rights groups and multinational corporations, displaying an increasing no-apologies aggressiveness in rolling back access to voting.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday, reducing voting access in one of the nation’s critical battleground states.
Florida, which former President Donald J. Trump won by about three percentage points in 2020, is the latest Republican-controlled state, following Georgia, Montana and Iowa, to impose new hurdles to casting a ballot after November’s elections.
Voting rights experts and Democrats say that some provisions of the new law will disproportionately affect voters of color.
The law, Senate Bill 90, limits the use of drop boxes where voters can deposit absentee ballots, and adds more identification requirements for anyone requesting an absentee ballot. It also requires voters to request an absentee ballot for each two-year election cycle, rather than every four years, under the previous law. Additionally, it limits who can collect and drop off ballots.
The law also expands a current rule that prohibits outside groups from holding signs or wearing political paraphernalia within 150 feet of a polling place or drop box, “with the intent to influence voters,” an increase from the previous 100 feet.
The new law weakens key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was built up slowly after the state’s chaotic 2000 election.
Voters of color are most reliant on after-hours drop boxes, critics of the law say, as it’s often more difficult for them to both take hours off during the day and to organize transportation to polling places.
Voting in Florida ran smoothly in 2020, by all accounts.
Mr. DeSantis has praised Florida’s handling of November’s elections, saying that his state has “the strongest election integrity measures in the country.”
But on the need for the new law, he said: “Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections.”
Voting rights groups filed lawsuits shortly after Mr. DeSantis signed the bill into law during a live broadcast on a Fox News morning program.
The law took effect immediately, and will be in force for the 2022 election, when Mr. DeSantis is up for re-election.
As House Republicans have made the case for ousting Representative Liz Cheney, their No. 3, from their leadership ranks, they have insisted that it is not her repudiation of former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies that they find untenable, but her determination to be vocal about it.
But on Thursday, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the Republican whom leaders have anointed as Ms. Cheney’s replacement in waiting, loudly resurrected his false narrative, citing “unprecedented, unconstitutional overreach” by election officials in 2020 and endorsing an audit in Arizona that has become the latest avenue for conservatives to try to cast doubt on the results.
“It is important to stand up for these constitutional issues, and these are questions that are going to have to be answered before we head into the 2022 midterms,” Ms. Stefanik told Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former strategist, in the first of a pair of interviews on Thursday with hard-right acolytes of the former president.
The comments, Ms. Stefanik’s first in public since she announced she was taking on Ms. Cheney, reflected how central the former president’s election lies have become to the Republican Party message, even as its leaders insist they are determined to move beyond them and focus on attacking Democrats as radical, big-spending socialists before the 2022 midterm elections.
Far from staying quiet about the false election claims on Thursday, Ms. Stefanik effectively campaigned on them, describing Mr. Trump on Mr. Bannon’s show as the “strongest supporter of any president when it comes to standing up for the Constitution,” and asserting that Republicans would work with him as “one team.”
“The job of the conference chair is to represent the majority of the House Republicans, and the vast majority of the House Republicans support President Trump, and they support his focus on election integrity and election security,” Ms. Stefanik later told Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to Mr. Trump.
While Ms. Stefanik avoided claiming outright that the election was stolen, she praised the Arizona audit, a Republican-led endeavor that critics in both parties have described as a blow to democratic norms and a political embarrassment, as “incredibly important.”
Editorial staff members at Washingtonian are refusing to publish online on Friday after the D.C.-based magazine’s chief executive wrote an opinion piece about the future of remote work that generated an immediate backlash.
Cathy Merrill, the chief executive of Washingtonian Media, wrote in The Washington Post on Thursday that she was “concerned about the unfortunately common office worker who wants to continue working at home and just go into the office on occasion.”
Ms. Merrill wrote that by choosing to continue to work from home, employees are offering executives “a tempting economic option the employees might not like.”
Employees who are not in the office are not able to participate in what she called “extra” responsibilities, such as mentoring junior co-workers, helping a colleague, or celebrating a birthday, she explained, and managers may thus be less inclined to continue providing these workers with the status, and benefits, of being a full-time employee.
“If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to ‘contractor,’” she wrote.
By doing so, she wrote, companies could save money by no longer having to pay for costs such as employee health care, retirement benefits, office space and parking fees.
Ms. Merrill apologized to her staff in an email on Friday and assured them that she would make no changes to employees’ benefits or work statuses.
“Washingtonian embraces a culture in which employees are able to express themselves openly,” Ms. Merrill said in a statement. “I value each member of our team not only on a professional level but on a personal one as well. I am sorry if the op-ed made it appear like anything else.”
The opinion piece generated an outcry among staff members at the magazine, many of whom posted the same message on Twitter criticizing Ms. Merrill’s words.
“As members of the Washingtonian editorial staff, we want our C.E.O. to understand the risks of not valuing our labor,” they wrote. “We are dismayed by Cathy Merrill’s public threat to our livelihoods. We will not be publishing today.”
Washingtonian staff, who are not part of a union, are still working from home. The magazine plans to have employees return to the office gradually beginning in the summer and then more fully in the fall.
The article and its original headline — “As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risks of not returning to work in the office” — felt to some Washingtonian employees like their benefits or jobs were threatened, said a member of the editorial staff who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions. The headline was changed to, “As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work.”
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, meeting with counterparts from both China and Russia on Friday, said that the United States would “push back forcefully” against breakers of international rules, even as he acknowledged his own country’s violations under the Trump administration.
Mr. Blinken’s counterparts, Foreign Ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia, took their own diplomatic swipes at the United States, accusing it of hypocrisy and of defining international rules in terms designed to assert Western dominance in the world.
The exchanges came at a United Nations Security Council meeting, convened by China and held virtually via videoconference link, on the theme of multilateral cooperation against the pandemic, global warming and other common threats.
It was in some ways a rematch between Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang, who was part of a top Chinese delegation that brusquely lectured the United States at a meeting in Alaska two months ago. That unscripted confrontation was regarded heroically in China, where the government has stoked rising anti-Americanism and nationalism.
Although the terms and tone used in the Friday meeting were more diplomatic, the differences were stark in the world views espoused by Mr. Blinken and his counterparts. Those differences suggested that the gridlock among the big powers of the Security Council would not ease anytime soon.
The session was held the same week that Mr. Blinken, meeting with the foreign ministers of the Group of 7 nations in Britain, emphasized what he described as the importance of “defending democratic values and open societies” — a signal of the Biden administration’s intent to challenge China and Russia on human rights, disinformation and other issues that had been de-emphasized or ignored by the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
In another clear signal from the Biden administration, Mr. Blinken also visited Ukraine, where he pledged support for its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency that has claimed 13,000 lives since 2014.
From the moment he was elected president in 2016 through his failed campaign for re-election, Donald J. Trump invoked the stock market as a report card on the presidency.
The market loved him, Mr. Trump said, and it hated Democrats, particularly his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. During the presidential debate in October, Mr. Trump warned of Mr. Biden: “If he’s elected, the market will crash.” In a variety of settings, he said that Democrats would be a disaster and that a victory for them would set off “a depression,” which would make the stock market “disintegrate.”
So far, it hasn’t turned out that way.
To the extent that the Dow Jones industrial average measures the stock market’s affection for a president, its early report card says the market loves President Biden’s first days in office considerably more than it loved those of President Trump.
Mr. Biden is undoubtedly benefiting from the upward trajectory in the economy and the markets that started under his predecessor — much as Mr. Trump benefited from the growing economy bequeathed him by President Barack Obama.
The market’s recent boom can be easily explained. Investment analysis from July suggested the stock market might perform quite well in a Biden presidency, despite Mr. Trump’s claims to the contrary. Those factors included more vigorous and efficient management of the coronavirus crisis, which would promote economic recovery and corporate profits; generous fiscal stimulus programs, with the possibility of colossal infrastructure-building; a return to international engagement accompanied by a reduction in trade friction; and a renewal of America’s global climate-change commitments.
But will it lead to strong returns through the Biden administration?
None of this tells us where the stock market is heading. All we know is that it has risen more than it has fallen over the long run, but has moved fairly randomly, day to day, and has sometimes veered into long declines. Another decline could happen at any time, regardless of what any president does.
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — One candidate brands himself a “conservative outlaw.” Another boasts of her bipartisan censure by the State Senate for calling the Capitol rioters “patriots.” A third, asked about Dominion voting machines — the subject of egregious conspiracy theories on the right — called them “the most important issue” of the campaign.
These are not fringe candidates for the Republican nomination for Virginia governor.
They are three of the leading contenders in a race that in many ways embodies the decade-long meltdown of Republican power in Virginia, a once-purple state that has gyrated more decisively toward Democrats than perhaps any in the country. In part, that is because of the hard-right focus of recent Republican officeseekers, a trend that preceded former President Donald J. Trump and became a riptide during his time in the White House.
The party’s race to the right shows no sign of tempering as a preselected group of Republicans gather on Saturday at 39 sites around Virginia to choose a nominee for governor. That candidate will advance to a November general election that has traditionally been a report card on the party in power in Washington, as well as a portent of the midterms nationally.
After a monthslong G.O.P. schism, Virginia Republicans decided to hold a nominating convention rather than a primary, which would attract a broader field of voters. At the party’s “disassembled convention,” as it is called, delegates who have been vetted by local Republican officials will choose the nominee, which critics say perpetuates the party’s narrow appeal.
Al and Julia Kent, moderate Republican voters in the Richmond suburbs, won’t be participating.
“It’s so confusing,” said Mr. Kent, an Air Force veteran who found the paperwork to register for Saturday’s nominating process to be intrusive. He said it had asked questions that “the Republican Party doesn’t need to know.”
His wife, a retired preschool teacher, said, “I don’t think the Republican Party is listening to anybody — the normal class of people, what they want.”
The Kents both voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and 2020, but they are worried about his legacy of divisiveness, in America and the G.O.P. “I think he’s ruined the Republican Party,” Ms. Kent said.
A poll this week by Christopher Newport University found that majorities of Virginia voters supported liberal policies, including “Medicare for all,” a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and a Green New Deal to tackle climate change.
Larry J. Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the Republican candidates for governor this year fit into three categories: “Trumpy, Trumpier, Trumpiest.”
By embracing the former president, who lost Virginia by 10 percentage points last year, Republicans are trading electability in the general election for viability in a primary. “They play the Republican nominating game very well, but they go so far to the right that most people find them offensive,” Mr. Sabato said. “It’s not respectable anymore for well-educated people to identify with the Trump G.O.P.”
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that the economic recovery in the United States will be a long haul but suggested that the labor market continues to be on the path to full employment by next year despite Friday’s disappointing employment data.
The comments came as the Labor Department said employers added 266,000 jobs in April, far below the vigorous gains registered in March. The jobless rate rose slightly to 6.1 percent, as more people rejoined the labor force.
Ms. Yellen said that, although she was expecting to see more substantial job growth last month, the labor market was stronger than the headline numbers suggested. She pointed to an increase in hours worked by employees and a decline in workers who are involuntarily working part-time for economic reasons.
The Treasury secretary acknowledged that the labor force faces a “long haul” to recovering from the job losses caused by the pandemic, noting that more than 8 million lost jobs have yet to be restored.
“The road back is going to be somewhat bumpy,” Ms. Yellen said, adding that jobs figures tend to be volatile on a monthly basis and that, on average, the economy has continued to add jobs at a healthy clip in recent months.
Ms. Yellen also pushed back against the suggestion by some business groups and Republicans that generous jobless benefits are holding back hiring because workers are choosing to collect unemployment insurance. She said that the bigger challenge has been the fact that many families are still without regular child care and are juggling irregular schedules because schools have yet to fully reopen.
Earlier this week, Ms. Yellen clarified comments that she made about the need to raise interest rates if the economy overheats, explaining that she is not prescribing that as necessary any time soon. On Friday, she reiterated that any signs of inflation are likely to be temporary and pointed to supply chain bottlenecks and shortages of commodities for price increases.
The prosecutors overseeing the vast investigation into the riot at the Capitol this winter have started offering plea deals to defendants, several lawyers said, a significant step in advancing the inquiry into the attack.
The plea negotiations, which have largely been informal, are in an early stage, and as of late last week, only one defendant among hundreds charged had pleaded guilty. But many lawyers have recently acknowledged having private conversations with the government and have sought to determine how much prison time their clients might be willing to accept.
“What’s going on,” said Gregory T. Hunter, who has represented several Capitol Hill defendants, “is a process of coming up with numbers that everybody hopes will fairly describe what people did.”
The extension of plea deals, even on a large scale, is typical in a legal system in which the vast majority of criminal cases never reach a jury. The likelihood that many, if not most, of the more than 400 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot will eventually plead guilty will have an added benefit in Washington: It will relieve the city’s federal court of the burden of conducting scores of trials at once.
The hashing out of plea deals will also force the government to grapple yet again with what has, from the start, been the central tension in the mass prosecution: the struggle to mete out justice on an individual level for the often intersecting actions of a mob.