ANCHORAGE — American and Chinese diplomats will return to another round of talks in Alaska on Friday morning and will try to salvage some common ground after a tense start that laid bare the simmering conflicts and distrust between the two superpowers.
In setting up the two days of discussions, the Biden administration had sought to build a baseline for its approach to China, one that officials have said would be grounded in competition but leave space for cooperation or confrontation with Beijing when necessary.
But they kicked off Thursday afternoon with more than an hour of heated accusations passing between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, a rocky exchange that played out in front of TV cameras and threw into doubt any prospect of their geopolitical rivalry softening.
Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.
At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.
“I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize the universal values advocated by the United States, or that the opinions of the United States could represent international public opinion,” Mr. Yang said through an interpreter. “And those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”
Mr. Blinken appeared taken aback but tried to keep the discussion on an even keel. He had opened the talks by asserting a goal to “strengthen the rules-based international order.”
“The alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all,” Mr. Blinken said. “And that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”
That appeared to irritate Mr. Yang, who accused the American delegation of being patronizing during his extended remarks. Afterward, Mr. Blinken motioned for the journalists in attendance to remain for his response.
In an implicit contrast with China, Mr. Blinken said the United States had a long history of openly confronting its shortcomings, “not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, trying to sweep them under the rug.”
A U.S. official later said the discussion cooled down after journalists left the room, and yielded a substantive conversation that lasted far longer than initially planned.
It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including controlling the pandemic, combating climate change, and limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American in the role, will meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta on Friday afternoon after a shooting rampage at Asian massage parlors left eight people dead this week.
While investigators continue to assess whether the shootings were racially motivated, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are expected to discuss the nationwide increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the people killed in the Atlanta shootings were women of Asian descent.
At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Asian-American lawmakers warned that the country had reached a “crisis point” amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence targeting the Asian community. It was the first congressional hearing on the issue held in over three decades.
Although Asian-Americans, like other minority groups, have long endured deadly violence, the threats and discrimination they continue to face are often trivialized as harmless insults.
“There’s a tendency to not believe that violence against Asian-Americans is real,” said Angela Hsu, 52, a lawyer in suburban Atlanta. “It’s almost like you need something really, really jarring to make people believe that there is discrimination against Asian-Americans.”
Investigators in Cherokee County, where one spa was targeted, have said that the gunman told them he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation.
The president and vice president canceled a political event that had previously been scheduled for Friday night in Georgia, the White House announced.
“During their trip to Atlanta,” White House officials said, “they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.”
An itinerary for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris says they will meet with Asian-American leaders at Emory University after visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This week, Ms. Harris, whose mother was born in India, condemned the bloodshed and expressed her solidarity with the Asian-American community.
“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear.
“I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.
As a tribute to the shooting victims, Mr. Biden on Thursday ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Monday. The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Police officials said on Thursday that they would not release the name of the four people killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta until they had properly notified the victims’ family members, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so.
President Biden on Friday nominated Bill Nelson, a former senator from Florida, to head NASA.
A statement from the White House announcing the nomination said of Mr. Nelson, “In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program.”
The selection raised concerns that the Biden administration may restore a more traditional space program that relies on large, legacy aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, rather than more nimble newcomers like SpaceX.
Many people in the field had also hoped that Mr. Biden would nominate the first woman to serve as administrator.
“Given how many qualified and talented women were rumored to be in consideration, he’s putting great trust in his former Senate colleague,” said Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA during the Obama administration.
Mr. Nelson, who lost his bid for re-election to a fourth term in 2018, was a one-time astronaut and longtime supporter of NASA in the Senate. He was also a chief architect of the 2010 law that directed NASA to develop a heavy-lift rocket known as the Space Launch System. Although the rocket had a successful engine test on Thursday, it is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
President Biden has shown an interest in space, putting a moon rock collected by astronauts on the last Apollo mission in 1972 on display in the Oval Office in the White House and chatting with scientists and engineers running the Perseverance robotic rover, which landed on Mars last month.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, has said the administration supported NASA’s current Artemis program, which is to send astronauts back to the moon, but the administration has not laid out broader space policy goals or how it might change the Artemis plans, announced first by former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Garver said that perhaps Mr. Nelson’s selection could mean personal interest in space exploration by Mr. Biden. The familiarity Mr. Biden has with Mr. Nelson from their years as Senate colleagues could mean “he’ll increase NASA’s budget,” she said.
Tucked into President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package are tens of millions of dollars for organizations dedicated to curtailing domestic abuse, which skyrocketed during the pandemic, as well as vouchers for people fleeing violence at home.
These measures are the most concrete signals to date that Mr. Biden’s domestic policy agenda will aim to combat domestic abuse, an issue that has long animated his four-decade career in politics.
As a senator, Mr. Biden sponsored the bill that became the Violence Against Women Act, the first federal legislation intended to end domestic violence, which the House voted to renew on Wednesday. As vice president, he created a position to coordinate federal efforts around abuse and sexual assault. That adviser reported to him.
As president, Mr. Biden signed off on a version of the American Rescue Plan that funnels $49 million in aid and hundreds of millions of dollars in housing assistance to victims who have been trapped during the pandemic with their abusers. A senior White House adviser will also focus on gender violence as part of Mr. Biden’s newly formed Gender Policy Council.
“The most vicious of all crimes are domestic crimes,” he said in 2009, when he was vice president. “The worst imprisonment in the whole world is to be imprisoned in your own home.”
Groups that work to end domestic abuse believe that the Biden administration’s policies could signal a substantive shift in addressing a crisis that cuts across race, class and gender. That he is doing so amid a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color, and a racial justice and police reform movement that also intersects with issues faced by survivors, has been applauded by advocates.
“For us, imagining that we will have folks in the White House paying attention, not only to violence against women but to these intersections — it is a deep sigh of relief,” said Karma Cottman, the executive director of Ujima, the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community.
As more states expand eligibility for coronavirus vaccinations, the pace of daily shots administered in the United States has steadily increased to a rate that is now 12 percent higher than it was a week ago.
On Thursday, Illinois joined a growing list of at least 16 other states announcing that they were opening appointments to all residents 16 years and older this month or next.
“The light that we can see at end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.
President Biden said on Thursday that the United States was a day away from reaching his goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days — with six weeks to spare before his self-imposed deadline.
“We’re way ahead of schedule,” he said in brief remarks from the White House, “but we have a long way to go.”
Mr. Biden maintained that the 100 million-shot goal was ambitious, even though he conceded in January that the government should be aiming higher. And though the new administration has bulked up the vaccine production and distribution campaign, its key elements were in place before Mr. Biden took office.
As of Thursday, the seven-day average was about 2.5 million doses a day, according to a New York Times analysis of data reported from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, Mr. Biden set a deadline of May 1 for states to make vaccines available to all adult residents. At least Maine, Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin, in addition to Washington, D.C., plan to meet that goal. Others, including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan and Montana, hope to make vaccines available to all of their adult residents even earlier.
Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah said opening up eligibility to all adults in his state would help address vaccine equity and reach rural communities. He also said it would “allow us to take our mobile vaccination clinics into these hard-to-reach areas or populations who may have a little more vaccine hesitancy.”
Other states have also pushed up their eligibility dates: Nevada will make vaccines available to all adults on April 5; Missouri on April 9; Maryland as of April 27; and Rhode Island starting April 19.
New York has yet to make all adults eligible, but the state recently expanded to include public-facing government employees, nonprofit workers and essential building service workers. On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, newly eligible because of the change, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a news conference.
The Democratic-led House voted on Thursday to create a path to citizenship for an estimated four million undocumented immigrants, reopening a politically charged debate over the nation’s broken immigration system just as President Biden confronts a growing surge of migrants at the border.
In a near party-line vote of 228 to 197, the House first moved to set up a permanent legal pathway for more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, and others granted Temporary Protected Status for humanitarian reasons. Just nine Republicans voted yes.
Hours later, lawmakers approved a second measure with more bipartisan backing that would eventually grant legal status to close to a million farmworkers and their families while updating a key agricultural visa program. This time, 30 Republicans, many representing agriculture heavy districts, joined nearly every Democrat to vote in favor.
The votes were significant milestones for the Dreamers and other activists who have waged a decade-long campaign, often at great personal risk, to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States without permanent legal status out of the shadows. Dreamers, those who have T.P.S. and agricultural workers have in many cases lived in the United States for long periods, and measures to normalize their status have broad public support.
In moving swiftly to consider both bills, House leaders wagered that singling out relatively narrow but publicly popular immigration fixes could shake up a deadlocked policy debate after years of failed attempts at more comprehensive immigration legislation, and deliver for a key constituency.
“This House has another chance to pass H.R. 6 and once and for all end the fear and uncertainty that have plagued the life of America’s Dreamers, who have become an integral part of the fabric of American society,” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, Democrat of California and an author of the Dreamer bill, said during a hard-fought debate inside the Capitol. “It is an issue about who we are as Americans.”
But after colliding with a wave of hardened Republican opposition in the House, the bills face steep odds in the evenly divided Senate. While some Republicans there have pledged support for Dreamers in the past, their party is increasingly uniting behind a hard-line strategy to block any new immigration law as it seeks to use the worsening situation at the border as a political cudgel against Mr. Biden and Democrats.
“There is no pathway for anything right now,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a key player in past bipartisan immigration pushes, said this week.
That means the immigration measures will join a growing pile of liberal agenda items, as well as broadly supported measures on pressing national challenges, that have passed the House but are destined to languish or die because of Republican opposition in the Senate. They include a landmark expansion of voting rights, new gun control measures, the most significant pro-labor legislation in decades and the Equality Act for L.G.B.T.Q. people.
Democrats in favor of eliminating or altering the filibuster believe the accumulating pressure could help break the dam in the months ahead, allowing them to change Senate rules to do away with the 60-vote requirement and let legislation pass with a simple majority.
President Biden’s ascent has cleared the way for a new class of boundary-breaking politician, starting with Kamala Harris, the first female vice president. In turn, a new class of political spouse is challenging ideas of who should serve as a supporting actor.
Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, and Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation, are now part of a growing club of Washington newcomers married to people who have broken barriers surrounding gender, race and sexual orientation in politics. Dan Mulhern, who is married to Jennifer Granholm, Mr. Biden’s new secretary of energy and the first woman to be elected governor of Michigan, is another member.
“It’s really pretty simple,” Mr. Mulhern said. “Men are doing what women have always done, just as women are doing what men have always done.”
Both Mr. Emhoff and Mr. Buttigieg, who became friends and traded supportive texts while their spouses campaigned for the presidency, have both begun the post-campaign process of defining themselves in Washington.
Mr. Buttigieg, 31, was a middle school teacher before he put his career aside to support his husband’s presidential campaign, which began in earnest less than a year after the couple married in 2018. He said that he knew he was privileged to have time to think about what he would do next, but that he felt the responsibility of being one-half of the highest-profile gay couple in American government. “I don’t know that it’s necessarily available for me to just disappear,” he said.
Balancing his life as a political spouse with his own identity has been trickier than he’d imagined.
“Pete is getting up in the morning, going to work and doing the thing that makes him really happy,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “That thing for me was getting up and going to school every day. Now I have to figure out if that is something I can return to.”
He could learn from women like Jill Biden, the first lady, who is the first person in her role to work full time, as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
Kelly Dittmar, a political science professor at Rutgers University who has written about gender representation in politics, praised Mr. Emhoff and Mr. Buttigieg for speaking openly about their roles supporting a partner in power.
“They’ve both been really willing to talk about it in ways that help us progress forward and push us to think differently,” Ms. Dittmar said.
The future of the Senate filibuster is increasingly in doubt, even though Republicans have yet to use it to block a single Democratic bill this year.
While the real showdown lies ahead, President Biden’s endorsement this week of a change in the rules governing the Senate’s signature procedural weapon represented a major shift in the political dynamic. Almost overnight, the prospect of Democrats’ taking action to weaken the minority party’s power to stall legislation has shifted from a far-off theoretical question to a fast-moving push with presidential buy-in.
What Mr. Biden said — a tempered embrace of requiring filibustering senators to hold the floor — was far less important than the fact that he said it at all. For Mr. Biden, a protector of the Senate if there ever was one, to declare that the filibuster needed updating was a big far-reaching deal, to paraphrase the former vice president’s hot-mic comment on the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.
“As a student and creature of the Senate, he certainly knows how to choose his words carefully on this subject,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, who has suddenly emerged as one of the most prominent advocates of overhauling the filibuster. “I think he’s acknowledging the obvious — that the filibuster has really shackled the Senate and made it far less productive.”
Democrats still lack the votes to overturn the current rules, which effectively require proponents of a bill to muster a 60-vote supermajority to advance it. The prospect that they might try has uncovered more queasiness among Democratic senators, underscoring the reality that progressive activists and senators eager to modify the filibuster have plenty of work to do if they are to prevail.
But they already knew that. To them, the fact that Mr. Biden and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and the party’s most outspoken backer of the filibuster, have both expressed some openness to change is more than they could have imagined at this stage.
“That’s light years ahead of where I would have hoped we’d be,” said Adam Jentleson, a former top Democratic Senate aide who is advising the anti-filibuster forces. “There’s a long way to go, but we are ahead of schedule.”
The growing momentum behind the current movement is remarkable considering there has not yet been a legislative filibuster this session. Democrats passed the coronavirus aid bill under a special budget process that prevented a filibuster, and nominations are no longer subject to a 60-vote threshold.
But filibusters are coming, beginning with a voting rights measure that is set for a Senate hearing next week, followed by bills to legalize undocumented immigrants, strengthen gun safety laws, bolster labor rights and more that Republicans strongly oppose.