Senate Democrats Plan to Prioritize Extra Direct Funds

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Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Senate Democrats plan to prioritize a bill containing more Covid relief, including additional $1,400 payments to many Americans and money to accelerate vaccine deployment, as their “first order of legislative business” when they assume control of the chamber.

The priorities, which Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming majority leader, outlined in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, echo many of the policies that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has signaled he will officially unveil on Thursday.

The president-elect has said repeatedly in recent days that he will push Congress to pass an additional pandemic relief bill meant to boost the flagging economic recovery and to accelerate efforts to deploy vaccine doses. In a call with Mr. Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday, Mr. Biden stressed the need for “immediate economic relief for families and small businesses, funding for Covid-19 response, including vaccinations, testing, school reopening, and state and local frontline workers,” according to a readout from the Biden transition team.

Mr. Schumer picked up on those themes in his letter. “The work of the 117th Congress will begin in the wake of a devastating attack, on the heels of a devastating year,” he wrote.

“We have an opportunity to work with our House colleagues and a new administration to defeat the virus, provide the relief the American people need, and reunite the country,” he said.

Mr. Schumer said the immediate relief bill would contain the additional money, on top of $600 individual payments Congress approved last month, to fulfill the promise of $2,000 payments that Mr. Biden made to voters in Georgia’s runoff elections this month: “We will get that done.”

He also said it would contain money for vaccine distribution, schools, small businesses and assistance for state and local governments, which was left out of the last Covid package in a dispute with Republicans. Mr. Schumer said senators would also prepare broader legislation to address climate change, infrastructure, manufacturing, immigration, criminal justice, inequality and elections.

Democrats will control the Senate by the narrowest of margins — it will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the ability to break any ties. Mr. Schumer said Democrats would look to work with Republicans on legislation “when and where we can” but offered a warning to the other party: “If our Republican colleagues decide not to partner with us in our efforts to address these issues, we will not let that stop progress.”

Doug McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart, at a White House event in April. Walmart said it would pause political contributions to the Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Walmart on Tuesday said it would “indefinitely” suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, as businesses come under pressure to respond after a mob stormed the Capitol last week.

On Sunday, when asked about the Walmart’s corporate donations, including those to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a spokesman told the Times that Walmart examines and adjusts its political giving strategy at the end of every election cycle.

“As we conduct our review over the coming months, we will certainly factor last week’s events into our process,” the spokesman, Randy Hargove, said at the time.

Mr. Hargove on Tuesday said Walmart “is indefinitely suspending contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the lawful certification of state Electoral College votes,” even as the company continues to review its donation strategy.

Many companies, including Google, Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola, opted to pause donations to both parties following the violence at the Capitol.

Fewer companies specified they will halt funding to only the 147 Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying the election results, as Walmart did on Tuesday. That group includes Marriott International, Dow, Airbnb and Morgan Stanley.

Walmart’s political action committee spent $1.65 million on political donations last year, according to Open Secrets, a program from the Center for Responsive politics that tracks the influence of money in politics.

Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, chairs the influential business lobbying group Business Roundtable, which after the election released a strongly worded statement acknowledging Mr. Biden’s victory and saying there was no indication that investigations or lawsuits would change the result.

President Trump is rushing to put into effect new economic regulations and executive orders before his term comes to a close.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump is rushing to put into effect a raft of new regulations and executive orders that are intended to put his stamp on business, trade and the economy before President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Here are some of the changes the administration is rushing to make.

Defining gig workers as contractors. The Labor Department on Wednesday released the final version of a rule that could classify millions of workers in industries like construction, cleaning and the gig economy as contractors rather than employees, another step toward endorsing the business practices of companies like Uber and Lyft. — Noam Scheiber

Limiting banks on social and environmental issues. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is rushing a proposed rule that would ban banks from not lending to certain kinds of businesses, like those in the fossil fuel industry, on environmental or social grounds. The regulator unveiled the proposal on Nov. 20 and limited the time it would accept comments to six weeks despite the interruptions of the holidays. — Emily Flitter

Rolling back a light bulb rule. The Department of Energy has moved to block a rule that would phase out incandescent light bulbs, which people and businesses have increasingly been replacing with much more efficient LED and compact fluorescent bulbs. The energy secretary, Dan Brouillette, a former auto industry lobbyist, said in December that the Trump administration did not want to limit consumer choice. The rule had been slated to go into effect on Jan. 1 and was required by a law passed in 2007. — Ivan Penn

“The President’s conduct last week was absolutely unacceptable and completely inexcusable,” said Thomas J. Donohue, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce.Credit…Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, condemned President Trump’s conduct that led to the siege of the Capitol last week and said on Tuesday that lawmakers who backed his efforts to discredit the election would no longer receive the organization’s financial backing.

The criticism was the latest backlash against Mr. Trump and Republicans from the business community, which has been united in its opposition to an assault on the democratic process, and represented a major rift in the traditional alliance between industry and the Republican Party.

“The president’s conduct last week was absolutely unacceptable and completely inexcusable,” Thomas J. Donohue, the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, said. “By his words and actions, he has undermined our democratic institutions and ideals.”

The group said that it is trusting Congress, the vice president and the cabinet to act “judiciously” as it considers whether to invoke the 25th Amendment or impeachment to remove Mr. Trump from office before his term ends next week. The statement did not go as far as one released by the National Association of Manufacturers last week that explicitly called for the removal of the president from office.

The Chamber operates a powerful political action committee that supports candidates across the country. Neil Bradley, the group’s chief policy officer, said that it is evaluating how lawmakers voted last week during the electoral vote certification process and how they vote in the coming days when the House moves to impeach Mr. Trump when making decisions about donations. He said that lawmakers who did not demonstrate respect for democracy would no longer receive financial support.

The relationship between the Chamber and Mr. Trump has at times been fraught. The group opposed his protectionist trade policies and efforts to restrict immigration but supported his moves to cut taxes and roll back regulations.

In a speech on the state of American business on Tuesday, Mr. Donohue called on Mr. Biden to roll back most of those tariffs and work with Congress on immigration reform legislation.

Visa and the financial technology start-up Plaid abandoned their $5.3 billion merger deal on Tuesday, citing a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit.

The agreement between Visa and Plaid, a service that allows companies and apps to securely share customer data, was challenged in November by Justice Department officials who said the credit card giant was trying to eliminate a “nascent threat” to its online payments business.

“Visa is a monopolist in online debit, charging consumers and merchants billions of dollars in fees each year to process online payments,” the Justice Department said in a statement on Tuesday. The department said that Plaid was developing its own payments platform, and that the merger “would have enabled Visa to eliminate this competitive threat to its online debit business before Plaid had a chance to succeed.”

The leaders of Visa and Plaid said they disagreed with the Justice Department’s stance but decided not to fight the lawsuit, which will be dismissed as a result of the merger’s cancellation.

Al Kelly, Visa’s chief executive, said Plaid’s capabilities were complementary, not competitive, to Visa and added that he believed the companies would have prevailed in court.

“However,” he said, “it has been a full year since we first announced our intent to acquire Plaid, and protracted and complex litigation will likely take substantial time to fully resolve.”

Plaid’s chief executive, Zach Perret, added: “While Plaid and Visa would have been a great combination, we have decided to instead work with Visa as an investor and partner.”

The past year was a busy one for financial data companies: Intuit, which owns TurboTax and the personal finance app Mint, announced a $7 billion takeover of the credit reporting company Credit Karma in February, another deal the Justice Department said it would review. In June, Mastercard said it would buy the financial data firm Finicity.

Boeing said that it had received orders for 90 new planes in December, after its 737 Max was allowed to fly again.Credit…Jason Redmond/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Boeing’s outstanding plane orders shrank by 500 in 2020, though its fortunes began to shift at the end of the year after the Federal Aviation Administration allowed the aircraft maker’s troubled 737 Max to fly again after a 20-month grounding.

The company said Tuesday that it had received orders for 90 new planes in December, most of which were part of a previously announced deal with the European airline Ryanair. The company also sold eight 777 freighters to DHL, the shipping company. Those orders were offset by 107 cancellations in the month.

“The resumption of 737 MAX deliveries in December was a key milestone as we strengthen safety and quality across our enterprise,” Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.

In addition to the Max crisis, which has cost billions of dollars, Boeing was also hamstrung by the pandemic, which has sharply slowed air travel, and by concerns about manufacturing problems and defects involving the 787 Dreamliner, a popular plane airlines use for longer flights.

Boeing received just 184 new orders last year, compared with more than 650 cancellations, virtually all of them for the Max. After taking account of the planes it delivered, cancellations and orders that the company thinks might not be fulfilled, Boeing’s overall backlog shrank by nearly 1,000 planes.

The 2020 figure does not take into account a late-December announcement from Alaska Airlines that it would expand an existing purchase and lease order for the Max by 36 planes.

The Max crisis appears to be receding as aviation authorities around the world prepare to follow the F.A.A. in allowing airlines to resume commercial flights on the plane. Last week, the company also agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department, resolving a criminal charge that it had sought to defraud the F.A.A.

The pandemic continues to take a toll on Boeing’s airline customers, but with vaccines being distributed, there is hope that travel demand might soon start recovering.

  • Stocks on Wall Street were mostly unchanged on Tuesday, after struggling to resume the advances that carried the major U.S. benchmarks to records last week.

  • After drifting between gains and losses, the S&P 500 ended the day with a gain of less than a tenth of a percent. Most major benchmarks in Europe were also flat or declined.

  • Energy prices rose, West Texas Intermediate crude touching its highest prices since February.

  • The S&P 500, Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq composite all closed at records last week but retreated on Monday.

  • Investors have mostly looked past the political turmoil in Washington and the state of the pandemic, focusing instead on a future ripe for gains in the U.S. equity market, in part because of the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and supportive fiscal and monetary policies. They expect gains even though the American stocks haven’t been this expensive since the 2000 dot-com bubble, according to some measures of valuation.

  • Lombard Odier, a Swiss private bank, said it was also staying invested in U.S. stocks. “The shift in balance of power and stimulus support for the real economy is combining to create a sound environment for risky assets, in particular equities,” Stéphane Monier, the bank’s chief investment officer, wrote in a note. He added that the bank was betting on an economic recovery and was also buying more European and emerging market shares.

Adrian Wycisk, a manager at Henkel, left, during a meeting using SafeZone digital social distancing technology to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.Credit…Anna Liminowicz for The New York Times

A small piece of technology that played a big role in helping the National Basketball Association evade the virus in its 2019-20 season is garnering broader attention.

The device, a wristband that players, coaches and trainers could wear off the court, has a digital chip that enforces social distancing by issuing a warning — by light and sound — when wearers get too close to one another for too long.

The bands have been picked up by the National Football League, the Pacific-12 college football conference and other sports leagues around the world, Christopher F. Schuetze reports for The New York Times.

The Munich start-up behind the N.B.A.’s wristbands, Kinexon, is happy with the publicity of helping prevent top athletes from catching the virus, even as such devices raise privacy concerns. Now, it is looking toward broader arenas: factory production lines, warehouses and logistics centers where millions of people continue to work despite the pandemic.

One of the companies working with Kinexon is Henkel, a global industrial and household chemical manufacturer based in Germany. Henkel was already testing an earlier version of Kinexon’s wearable tech designed to avert collisions between forklifts and workers on high-traffic factory floors. Kinexon offered Henkel a chance to test a variation of that technology, called SafeZone.

The company said it was supplying the technology to more than 200 companies worldwide. It estimates its badges have prevented 1.5 million contacts a day, a difficult number to confirm. The sensors are priced at $100 to $200 each.

“What’s important in this is not only to have the technology working in a lab — what’s important now is to be able to bring the technology to where people need it,” said Oliver Trinchera, a co-founder of Kinexon and one of its directors, “be it on the factory floor or on the sports pitch.”

Mark Levin, a Trump-supporting radio host, has tweeted about a “massive fraud perpetrated against the president.” <a href=
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  • Twitter on Monday said that it had removed more than 70,000 accounts that promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory in recent days. Twitter, which carried out the suspensions over the weekend, said it acted to clamp down on posts that have “the potential to lead to offline harm.” It added that many of the users who were removed had operated multiple QAnon accounts, driving up the total number of accounts that were taken down.

  • Cumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro, has ordered its employees at 416 stations nationwide to steer clear of endorsing misinformation about election fraud. “The election has resolved, there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths,’” read a memo sent to staff on Wednesday. “Please inform your staffs that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for any suggestion otherwise. If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately. There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.”

  • Amazon said on Monday that it was removing products promoting QAnon, a baseless conspiracy, from its website, after QAnon supporters were prominent in the riot at the Capitol last week. The move followed Amazon’s decision to boot Parler, a right-wing social network, from its web servers and cloud services.

  • Marriott International, Dow, Airbnb and Morgan Stanley were among those that said they would halt donations from their political action committees to the 147 Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying the election results on Jan. 6. AT&T, whose PAC donated the most of any single public company in the 2019-20 election cycle, also said it would suspend contributions to those lawmakers. At the same time, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft said they were pausing PAC donations to both Republican and Democratic candidates for various lengths of time — a tactic that will also penalize those who voted to uphold the election.

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