President Biden said Friday that he was “confident” the United States would surpass his goal of putting 100 million coronavirus vaccine shots into the arms of Americans during his first 100 days in office, and predicted that the nation would be “approaching normalcy by the end of this year.”
The president’s remarks, during a visit to the Pfizer manufacturing facility outside Kalamazoo, Mich., come as he is under increasing pressure to clarify his administration’s message about when his vaccination campaign will be broad enough to reach every American. He tempered his comments with caution.
“I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year, and God willing this Christmas will be different than last,” he said, “but I can’t make that commitment to you.”
Governors in both parties have been pressing the Biden administration for clearer and consistent messaging about the timeline for the vaccination campaign. Last week, Mr. Biden struck a careful note, saying he did not expect that every American would be vaccinated by the end of the summer.
This week, he said there would be enough vaccine available by the end of July to do so.
Mr. Biden’s visit came after he attended a virtual meeting with fellow leaders of the Group of 7 nations earlier in the day. There, he promised that the United States would renew its bonds with Europe and pledged to donate $4 billion to an international vaccine effort. In Kalamazoo, he spoke of the importance of fighting the pandemic beyond the United States’ borders.
“It’s not enough that we find cures for Americans,” the president said, adding, “You can’t build a wall or a fence high enough to keep a pandemic out.”
The winter storm this week has delayed the shipment of six million vaccine doses, adding a layer of frustration to an already fraught situation. Earlier this week, the National Governors Association sent a letter to Mr. Biden, praising the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Jeffrey D. Zients, for “doing great work,” but also asking for better coordination between the federal government and the states. Mr. Zients accompanied Mr. Biden to Michigan.
Mr. Biden has repeatedly promised to get 100 million shots into Americans’ arms by his 100th day in office. His pledge appeared ambitious when he first made it before Election Day, but has more recently been criticized as not ambitious enough.
The country is now vaccinating an average of 1.7 million people a day, and Mr. Biden said the country was “on track to surpass” the 100 million goal.
Mr. Biden was introduced by Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, who said his employees had been “working around the clock” to ramp up vaccine manufacturing and accelerate delivery. Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech, is one of two companies that have emergency authorization to sell coronavirus vaccines in the United States. The other is Moderna.
Mr. Bourla said that over the next few weeks, Pfizer expected to increase the number of doses for the United States from five million to more than 10 million per week, and that it would provide the government a total of 200 million doses by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule.
Mr. Biden appealed to Americans to be patient as they waited for the vaccine. “I can’t give you a date when this crisis will end, but I can tell you we are doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later,” he said. He also pleaded with Americans to take the vaccine if it is offered to them, and repeatedly vouched that it would help rather than harm them.
“I know people want confidence that it’s safe,” he said. “Well, I just toured where it’s being made. It takes more time to do the check for safety than it does actually to make the vaccine. That’s how fastidious they are.”
The House Budget Committee on Friday unveiled the nearly 600-page text of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief proposal as Democrats raced toward approving help for workers, schools and businesses in a House vote next week.
The Senate will take up the legislation soon after.
In a letter to Democrats on Friday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, vowed that the Senate would pass the bill before unemployment benefits begin to lapse in mid-March. He defended the Democrats’ fast-tracking of the legislation.
“If Republicans are ready to work with Democrats on constructive amendments that will improve the bill, we are ready to work,” Mr. Schumer wrote. “However, we must not allow Republican obstructionism to deter us from our mission of delivering help to Americans who desperately need this relief.”
Republican leaders, who have been searching for a way to derail the proposal even though polls show a large majority of Americans support it, on Friday labeled it a “payoff to progressives.” They said the bill spent too much and included a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments, which they called a “blue state bailout” even though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans.
They also objected to the bill’s increased unemployment benefits, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.
The attacks followed weeks of varying Republican objections to the package, including warnings that it would add to the federal budget deficit, unleash inflation and, they said, do little to help the economy recover and grow.
Republicans also said Democrats were violating Mr. Biden’s calls for “unity” by proceeding without bipartisan consensus.
“Critics say my plan is too big, that it costs $1.9 trillion,” Mr. Biden said at an event in Michigan on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”
Before his first news conference as defense secretary on Friday, Lloyd J. Austin III found himself watching an emotional video that laid out in stark terms the military’s stumbling response to sexual harassment and assault in the ranks.
A visibly distraught female Marine, seated in a car, described how her superiors were handling her case. In the video, which lit up TikTok and Twitter on Thursday and Friday, the Marine said she had just found out that a commanding general had decided that the person she identified as having harassed her would remain in the Corps.
Wiping away tears, the Marine said her treatment by her superiors was why women in the military died by suicide. Aides to Mr. Austin said he viewed the video after it was sent to him by a friend.
Few specifics of the case have emerged, but the Marine Corps hurried to assemble an official response. “We are aware of the video of the Marine in distress,” the Corps said in a statement on Twitter on Friday.
But while the statement insisted that the Marine Corps took “all allegations of misconduct seriously,” and that commanders had taken actions to ensure the Marine was safe, it did not go into detail about what the female Marine said was the commanding general’s decision to keep an accused perpetrator on the job.
Mr. Austin, for his part, said he found the video “deeply disturbing,” adding that he had asked his staff for more information.
Soon after Mr. Austin took the helm at the Pentagon last month, he ordered a review of how the Defense Department has been handling sexual assault cases. But that issue has been a matter of congressional debate for over a decade.
In 2019, the Defense Department found, there were 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims. Advocates for victims of sexual assault in the military say the Pentagon needs to take some control from commanders, who often know both the victims and the perpetrators, and assign the cases to military prosecutors. But such an overhaul would need approval by Congress.
After Republican leaders in Georgia repeatedly defended the integrity of the state’s elections when former President Donald J. Trump tried to undermine its vote, Republican legislators this week unveiled a list of ways to make it harder to vote — all in the name of election integrity.
Some of the items on the 48-page list, released by a special panel of the Republican-controlled state legislature, were neutral reforms endorsed by local election officials. Others were instantly criticized as openly partisan: Eliminate Sunday early voting, which is a tradition among Black churchgoers. Limit after-hours early voting, which is popular in cities. Require IDs to cast mail ballots, and limit the locations of drop boxes where they can be deposited. Restrict the times to request and return mail ballots.
In a public hearing on Friday, a succession of civil- and voting-rights leaders roasted the proposal, calling it a solution in search of a problem that even two recounts and a partial audit of the state’s November vote failed to find. They suggested that the aim was less to make elections more honest than to undo the factors that allowed Democrats to win the state’s presidential vote and its two seats in the Senate.
“In effect, it’s a way to cheat to win,” Nancy Flake Johnson, the president of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, said at the daylong hearing. “Does this mean every time the losing side in elections are upset that they do not win, that we have sweeping changes in the law to punish those on the winning team?”
The provisions limiting early and mail voting echo proposals in Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide targeting voting options that are popular with Democrats, and that Mr. Trump baselessly criticized as fraudulent.
The Arizona Senate approved a bill this week placing strict ID requirements on mail ballots, which have long been used by 80 percent of the state’s voters without problems. On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, said he would propose legislation to restrict the use of drop boxes and clamp down on the rules for mailing absentee ballots.
Perhaps the strongest complaints in Georgia have been lodged against the bill’s proposal to limit early voting to working hours on weekdays, effectively doing away with the “Souls to the Polls” tradition among Black voters of casting ballots en masse after Sunday church services.
The Rev. James Woodall, state president of the Georgia N.A.A.C.P., said that was “a slap in the face to Black voters who turned out in large numbers for the general election last year, as well as the January runoff.”
Of the Black voters affected, he said, many “are working-class people who don’t have two to three hours to take off to vote on the normal Election Day on Tuesday.”
On Friday, one Republican said tighter laws were needed largely to reassure a public that has been fed a steady stream of groundless fraud charges. “I’m not getting into the part about widespread voter fraud,” Representative Alan Powell, a Republican on the special panel, said. “It wasn’t found. It’s just in a lot of people’s minds that there was.”
The Justice Department brought charges on Friday against six people suspected of being members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, adding new defendants to a case that had already accused the group of an organized plot to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The charges, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, accused Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of the Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, and his wife, Connie, of joining four other militia members, including a married couple from Ohio, in a “stack” of Oath Keepers who ascended a flight of stairs outside the Capitol and then breached the building. The group of six, court papers say, worked with three Oath Keepers who were charged last month: Thomas E. Caldwell, Jessica M. Watkins and Donovan Crowl.
The new indictment against the nine Oath Keepers is the most significant evidence to date that far-right extremists worked in advance to try to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 and help former President Donald J. Trump stay in power.
In late December, prosecutors say, Mr. Meggs, 52, referred on Facebook to a tweet in which Mr. Trump predicted that a rally in Washington on Jan. 6 to protest the results of the election would be “wild.”
“He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying,” Mr. Meggs wrote in his Facebook post. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC.”
According to previous court papers, the Oath Keepers began working to undermine Mr. Biden’s win within a week of Election Day, setting up training sessions for “urban warfare” and “riot control” and discussing a plot to ferry heavy weapons into Washington across the Potomac River. Prosecutors say Ms. Watkins, in particular, was “awaiting direction” from Mr. Trump about how to deal with the election results as early as mid-November.
In the newly filed papers, prosecutors said another Florida Oath Keeper, Graydon Young, had arranged for himself and others to receive “firearms and combat training.”
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, announced on Friday that he would oppose Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, imperiling her prospects in an evenly divided Senate.
The fate of the nomination is now in the hands of a party Ms. Tanden has frequently criticized. She would need the support of at least one Republican senator in order to be confirmed, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie.
Given Ms. Tanden’s litany of critical public statements and tweets against members of both parties before her nomination, it is unclear whether such support exists — or if other Democrats will also come forward in opposition.
In a statement released Friday, Mr. Manchin cited comments from Ms. Tanden that were personally directed at Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the minority leader; Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent now in charge of the Senate Budget Committee; and other colleagues.
“I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Mr. Manchin said. “For this reason, I cannot support her nomination. As I have said before, we must take meaningful steps to end the political division and dysfunction that pervades our politics.”
The White House signaled on Friday that it was not ready to withdraw Ms. Tanden’s nomination.
“Neera Tanden is an accomplished policy expert who would be an excellent budget director, and we look forward to the committee votes next week and to continuing to work toward her confirmation through engagement with both parties,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Ms. Tanden faced tough grilling from both Republicans and Democrats during her two confirmation hearings earlier this month.
Republicans spent the first hour of her first hearing before a Senate homeland security committee asking Ms. Tanden to explain her past Twitter posts and why she had deleted more than 1,000 tweets shortly after the November election.
Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, read aloud posts in which she called Mr. McConnell “Moscow Mitch” and said that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” a Republican senator from Texas.
Her second hearing was no less fiery, with Mr. Sanders confronting her over her history of leveling personal attacks on social media, including at him.
Ms. Tanden apologized to lawmakers during both hearings, saying she regretted many of her previous remarks.
“I deeply regret and apologize for my language, some of my past language,” Ms. Tanden said. “I recognize that this role is a bipartisan role, and I recognize I have to earn the trust of senators across the board.”
A sizable and bipartisan group of former Justice Department officials and retired federal judges sent two letters to Senate leaders on Friday urging swift confirmation of President Biden’s nominee to be attorney general, Judge Merrick B. Garland.
“We believe, based upon Judge Garland’s character, his impeccable judicial service, and his distinguished service to the United States as a federal prosecutor and senior Justice Department official, that he will be an outstanding attorney general,” the former judges, who included both Republican and Democratic appointees, said in their letter.
Judge Garland, a former prosecutor and senior Justice Department official who has served on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a confirmation hearing on Monday.
A centrist who was President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, but whom Senate Republicans blocked from receiving a vote, Judge Garland is widely expected to be confirmed this time.
The roughly five dozen retired district and appellate judges who signed the judicial letter included several who left the bench to serve in senior executive branch positions, as Judge Garland is now poised to do.
They included William Webster, a Nixon appointee to the Eighth Circuit who left the bench in 1978 to lead the F.B.I. and then the C.I.A.; Kenneth Starr, a Reagan appointee to the D.C. Circuit who left the bench in 1989 to become President George Bush’s solicitor general and later served as the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation; and Michael Chertoff, a George W. Bush appointee to the Third Circuit who left in 2005 to run the Department of Homeland Security.
The other letter, signed by more than 150 former Justice Department officials, included four former attorneys general: Alberto R. Gonzales and Michael B. Mukasey, both of whom served in the George W. Bush administration, and Eric H. Holder Jr. and Loretta Lynch, both of whom served in the Obama administration.
Citing Judge Garland’s judicial record and his prior work as a prosecutor, including leading the high-profile investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the former Justice Department officials’ letter portrayed him as “not only supremely qualified for the position,” but also “well-equipped to address the many challenges before us.”
It added: “The work and reputation of the Department of Justice are as important as they have ever been. Judge Garland is the right person to ensure the fair administration of justice, whether related to national security, public integrity, civil rights, antitrust, crime, or other pressing issues. He is also the right person to do so with integrity, humility, and a complete understanding of the substantial responsibility on his shoulders at this time.”
A federal judge on Friday blocked South Carolina from implementing one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bans, just a day after Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, signed the law.
The judge imposed a 14-day restraining order until a fuller hearing is held next month. Her order was in response to a suit brought by Planned Parenthood to stop the law, which prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected. That milestone usually occurs around six weeks from conception and before many women know they are pregnant.
Nearly a dozen states have passed so-called heartbeat bans in recent years. Courts have blocked all of them from taking effect because of Supreme Court rulings permitting abortion without excessive government restrictions. But proponents of the laws have positioned them as vehicles to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
South Carolina’s attorney general argued that the court should not stop its law from taking effect, saying there was no reason to believe the Supreme Court would reject it now that three conservative justices have been added by former President Donald J. Trump, according to The Associated Press.
While a majority of Americans say in polls that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, the issue stirs deep passions and divides social conservatives from liberals.
On the same day that South Carolina enacted its ban, the Democratic-led legislature in Virginia repealed a prohibition on abortion coverage by the state’s health care insurance exchange. If it is signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who has promised his support, Virginia would be the first state in the South to cover abortions through a health exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.
Political strategists and political scientists have for years tracked the decline of ticket-splitting as American voters and candidates have become ever more hardened in their partisan shells.
Now, a new analysis of how votes were cast in 2020 for president and for the House of Representatives in each of the country’s 435 congressional districts shows that there are fewer “crossover districts” than at any time in nearly a century.
According to the analysis, by the elections site Daily Kos, only seven Democrats represent House districts that former President Donald J. Trump won. Only nine Republicans are in districts carried by President Biden. Pennsylvania is the only state with one of each kind.
The total of 16 crossover districts is significantly lower than the 35 in the 2016 election. For much of the postwar era, there were 100 or more districts in which one party won the congressional race and the opposite party carried the White House contest. The trend represents “our nation’s increased political polarization,” Daily Kos wrote.
The map is a starting point for the 2022 midterm elections, when Democrats will try to hold on to their nine-seat majority and Republicans see an opportunity to flip the chamber. The fact that only 16 members of Congress occupy districts won by the opposite party in the presidential race suggests that the number of tossup House contests will be minimal.
Conventional practice for a down-ballot candidate in a hostile district is to “localize” the race, ignoring the occupant of and messaging from the White House. But the trend in American politics is that all races are, in fact, becoming nationalized as a series of referendums on the president.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota on Friday accused Trump supporters who have targeted conservative critics of the former president — including seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict him at his impeachment trial — of engaging in “cancel culture.”
Mr. Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, has been sharply critical of Mr. Trump’s behavior ahead of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol but voted to acquit him, citing constitutional objections.
“There was a strong case made,” Mr. Thune told The Associated Press in an interview in Pierre, S.D., on Thursday, referring to the evidence House Democrats presented at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial this month.
“People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves,” said Mr. Thune, who described each senator’s decision in the trial as a “vote of conscience.”
Republican state organizations, dominated by far-right activists and supporters of Mr. Trump, have censured House members who voted in favor of impeachment, most notably Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Senate Republicans, including Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, have faced similar condemnations from their state parties for voting to convict him.
Mr. Thune — echoing the sentiments of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader — cautioned Republicans not to ally themselves with candidates whose statements were so extreme that they would alienate swing voters. He also pledged to back candidates “who don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.”
He went out of his way to praise Ms. Cheney, who recently said Mr. Trump “does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward,” calling her an “exceptional” leader.
“At the grass-roots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates,” Mr. Thune, a top deputy of Mr. McConnell, told The A.P. “But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable.”
In late December, Mr. Trump lashed out after Mr. Thune dismissed his false claims of election fraud.
“John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy’, should just let it play out,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, a few weeks before he was banned from the platform. “South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!”
That same day, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Trump ally who was considered Mr. Thune’s most dangerous potential primary opponent, declared herself his ally and said she had no intention of opposing him.
A federal judge said an assailant who killed her son and badly injured her husband also had another target: Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Judge Esther Salas, of the Federal District Court in Newark, described evidence found in a locker kept by the assailant, Roy Den Hollander, during an interview with “60 Minutes” to be broadcast on Sunday. Mr. Hollander, who had a case before the judge, killed himself after his attack on her home last year.
“They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition,” Judge Salas said in the interview. “But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a work-up on Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”
Kathleen Arberg, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, said that “as a matter of court policy we do not discuss security.”
Judge Salas, who has been working to help pass legislation to protect judges from violence, said the threat to Justice Sotomayor was a reminder of the risks judges face.
“Who knows what could have happened?” she said. “But we need to understand that judges are at risk. We need to understand that we put ourselves in great danger every day for doing our jobs.”
Donald J. Trump could once instantly bullhorn anger or approval on Twitter, but the de-platformed former president is increasingly turning to another medium of self-expression to broadcast his views: the visitors list at Mar-a-Lago.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has tended to his relationship with Mr. Trump with a greenskeeper’s care, is scheduled to visit the former president at his private golf club in Palm Beach, Fla., this weekend to mediate Mr. Trump’s feud with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.
Mr. Graham’s request was quickly greenlighted. Another ask, from a less pro-Trump South Carolina Republican, was summarily rejected.
Last week, Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, asked for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago to discuss her recent criticism of his behavior, in which she concluded, “He has fallen so far.”
Mr. Trump refused to meet with her, and the ban is likely permanent, according to a person with direct knowledge of the snub, which was first reported by Politico.
The former president has seen his national approval ratings tumble in the wake of the Capitol riot, but he is intent on retaining political power, and seems as determined as ever to punish anyone, like Ms. Haley, who says negative things about him.
One other thing has not changed: Mr. Trump views an invitation to his headquarters — whether at Trump Tower, the White House and now Mar-a-Lago — as a prize to be earned through compliance and kind words.
The first post-presidential visitor of political note was Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, who flew down on Jan. 27 — after saying that Mr. Trump “bears responsibility” for the riot, and suggesting he “should have immediately denounced the mob.”
Mr. McCarthy emerged from that meeting with a less critical tone, a smiling snapshot with Mr. Trump and a commitment that the former president would help out in the 2022 midterms.
That was followed with a post-trial visit last week from a top McCarthy deputy, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. That trip was intended to underscore his commitment to Mr. Trump and the loyalty that remained in part of the G.O.P. after seven Republican senators voted to convict him and Mr. McConnell unleashed a torrent of pent-up criticism.
“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” Mr. McConnell declared shortly after the vote.
Mr. Trump responded in a statement by calling Mr. McConnell “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”
Mr. Graham’s intention to prevent a Republican civil war had prompted the meeting. But his belief that Mr. Trump is the future, and not the past, of the party was the real ticket of entry.
“I know Trump can be a handful,” Mr. Graham told Fox News last week. “But he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party. We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump.”
On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz urged his constituents to “stay home,” warning that winter weather beating down on Texas could be deadly. On Tuesday, he offered a shrug emoji and pronounced the situation “not good.” Then, on Wednesday, he decamped for a Ritz-Carlton resort in sun-drenched Cancún, escaping with his family from their freezing house.
And on Thursday, many Americans who had been battered by a deadly winter storm, on top of a nearly yearlong pandemic, finally found a reason to come together and lift their voices in a united chorus of rage.
FlyinTed, a homage to former President Donald J. Trump’s “Lyin’ Ted” nickname, began trending on Twitter. TMZ, the celebrity website, published photographs showing a Patagonia-fleece-clad Mr. Cruz waiting for his flight, hanging out in the United Club lounge and reading his phone from a seat in economy plus. The Texas Monthly, which bills itself as “the national magazine of Texas,” offered a list of curses to mutter against Mr. Cruz.
For a politician long reviled not just by Democrats but also by many of his Republican colleagues in Washington, Mr. Cruz is now the landslide winner for the title of the least sympathetic politician in America.
After leaving freezing Texans to melt snow for water while he traveled to the beach, Mr. Cruz offered little more than the classic political cliché — time with family — as an explanation, citing his daughters’ desire to go to Cancún as the reason for his trip. Even his dog became a player in the Cruz drama after a report that the Cruz family had left the aptly named Snowflake behind with a security guard, stirring fresh outrage on social media.
“It’s like he bailed out on the state at its most weakened moment,” said Bill Miller, a veteran Texas lobbyist and political consultant who has worked with members of both parties. “It’s an indefensible action.”
He won’t face voters for re-election until 2024, giving him plenty of time to rehabilitate his image. But the trip was still a surprisingly tone-deaf misstep for a politician known to have big ambitions. Mr. Cruz, who already ran for president once in 2016, is widely viewed as wanting to mount a second bid.
Mr. Cruz returned home on Thursday, bearing a Texas flag mask and a classic political excuse.
“It was obviously a mistake and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it. I was trying to be a dad,” he told reporters on Thursday, a striking admission from a politician who built his career on ceding little ground. “From the moment I sat on the plane, I began really second-guessing that decision.”
Creating a stark contrast in optics, one of Mr. Cruz’s most frequent Democratic sparring partners on Capitol Hill, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, announced on Friday that she had helped to raise over $2 million in aid for Texas, and would visit Houston later in the day to distribute supplies.
An international effort to speed up the manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the globe has gotten a boost.
On Friday, during a virtual meeting with other leaders from the Group of 7 nations, President Biden said that his administration would make good on a U.S. promise to donate $4 billion to the global vaccination campaign over the next two years. Other leaders also announced pledges, and at the end of the meeting, the European Union’s chief executive said that new commitments from the E.U., Japan, Germany and Canada had more than doubled the G7’s total support to $7.5 billion.
The World Health Organization released a statement welcoming the additional pledges for the campaign, known as Covax, and noting that commitments for the program now total $10.3 billion — but also saying that a funding gap of $22.9 billion remained for the campaign’s work this year.
The Covax effort has been led by the public-private health partnership known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization. It aims to distribute vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the W.H.O., with a special emphasis on providing them to low- and middle-income countries.
Public health experts often say that unless everyone is vaccinated, it’s as if no one is vaccinated.
So far, the United States has pledged more money than any other nation, with at least one official noting that diminishing the pandemic’s global impact would benefit the country’s own economy and security. White House officials said the money would be delivered in multiple tranches: an initial donation of $500 million right away, followed shortly by an additional $1.5 billion. The remaining $2 billion will delivered by the end of 2022. The funds were approved last year by a Republican-led Senate when President Donald J. Trump was still in office.
Mr. Biden’s engagement in the global fight against the pandemic stands in stark contrast to the approach of Mr. Trump, who withdrew from the World Health Organization and disdained foreign assistance, pursuing a foreign policy he called “America First.” Mr. Biden rejoined the World Health Organization immediately after taking office in January.
National security experts have said the United States should consider donating vaccine doses to poorer countries, as India and China are already doing in an effort to expand their global influence. But an official said that the U.S. would not be able to share vaccines while the American vaccination campaign is still continuing to expand.
The global vaccination effort also stands to benefit from a commitment by the pharmaceutical company Novavax, whose coronavirus vaccine is still in trials.
Under a memorandum of understanding between Gavi and Novavax, the company agreed to provide “1.1 billion cumulative doses,” though it did not specify a time frame. The vaccine will be manufactured and distributed globally by Novavax and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
Novavax is expected to provide vaccines primarily to high-income countries, the company said in its announcement, while the Serum Institute will supply “low-, middle, and upper-middle-income countries,” using “a tiered pricing schedule.”
Novovax recently reported that its vaccine showed robust protection in a large British trial, but was less effective against the variant of the virus first identified in South Africa. Trials are also underway in the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom.