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Dec 2, 2020 at 10:20 am ET

Biden’s Planned Health-Care Law Reboot Could Stall Under GOP-Controlled Senate

President-elect Joe Biden has said he intends to focus his health-care policy on a reboot of the Affordable Care Act and launch the first federally run health-care plan. But as with much of his agenda, the fate of his plans rests on which party has control of the Senate following Georgia’s runoff elections in January.

Mr. Biden’s boldest proposals include lowering the age for Medicare enrollment to 60 from 65 and instituting a public-option health plan.

Tackling the surge of coronavirus cases will pose the most immediate challenge. Mr. Biden is focusing on the pandemic ahead of his inauguration with his own coronavirus advisory group. He has already used his role as president-elect to urge the public to wear masks and social distance, and his transition team has begun working with the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Updated Dec 2, 2020 at 7:24 am ET

Biden’s Economic Team Charts a New Course for Globalization, With Trumpian Undertones

Candidate Joe Biden at a metal-works plant in July.tom brenner/Reuters

Joe Biden’s economic team is taking shape with plans to remake the Trump administration’s approach to economic relations overseas, with a distinction: agreement with President Trump’s assertion that globalization has been hard on many Americans but differences on how to address it.

The distinction shows Mr. Trump likely will have a lasting impact on the direction of U.S. economic policy, even though the incoming administration is trying to alter important parts of it.

For many years, peaking in the 1990s, mainstream Democrats and Republicans championed globalization and trade agreements with China, Mexico and others as developments that would make Americans better off. Economists said that there would be winners and losers as the U.S. imported and exported more, but that the trade-offs would be manageable.

Mr. Trump’s election four years ago in part reflected the toll that foreign competition took on Americans over two decades of amped-up globalization, particularly in manufacturing communities run down by cheap imports. One of Mr. Trump’s “America First” messages was that Washington elites, joining with global companies, let U.S. workers down with unbalanced trade deals. Another was deep skepticism of global institutions like the World Trade Organization, which was formed to resolve international trade disputes through multilateral rules.

The prime example, in this view, was China, which in the two decades since it joined the WTO has grown to be the world’s second-largest economy, a massive employer and key market for many American companies—while, in the eyes of many officials, stealing U.S. technology and often skirting international rules. China disputes allegations that it steals technology or breaks trade rules.

President-elect Biden’s initial economic picks—most of whom served in the Obama or Clinton administrations—still largely believe in the benefits of globalization and trade, according to interviews and their public statements. Yet they also have grown circumspect about the pitfalls of globalization that Mr. Trump highlighted, including the challenges it imposes on some U.S. workers.

For Mr. Biden’s new economic team, the election represents a bid to address the failings of globalization in a more cooperative manner with the rest of the world than Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden has signaled he wants to push allies for help confronting China and press for more aggressive programs domestically to help Americans hurt by trade, and aides have signaled a skepticism about using tariffs as a weapon in trade confrontations.

Dec 1, 2020 at 6:19 pm ET

Georgia Official Urges Trump to Condemn Threats Against Election Officials

Gabriel Sterling, voting-system implementation manager at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, answered questions during a press conference on Nov. 6 in Atlanta.Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

A Georgia election official urged President Trump on Tuesday to condemn threats against election officials doing their jobs.

Gabriel Sterling, voting-system implementation manager at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said a contractor in Gwinnett County, Ga., received death threats after being falsely accused of manipulating election data.

“It has to stop,” Mr. Sterling said in emotional remarks at the state Capitol in Atlanta. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.”

He added: “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. Every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.”

A video of his remarks was widely shared on social media.

Mr. Sterling spoke out after Mr. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly advanced claims about widespread election fraud and questioned the election results in the weeks since the Nov. 3 contest. Federal officials have said the election was free from rigging and that it was the most secure election in U.S. history. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department hasn’t found evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election.

Other election officials have also reported threats and harassment targeting themselves and employees. A Republican election official in Philadelphia, City Commissioner Al Schmidt, said his office received death threats. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said she, along with her family and her staff, were targets of threats of violence.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: “The campaign is focused on ensuring that all legal votes are counted and all illegal votes are not. No one should engage in threats or violence, and if that has happened, we condemn that fully.”

The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Trump remained defiant. On Tuesday night he retweeted a video clip of Mr. Sterling’s remarks and said on Twitter: “Rigged election. Show signatures and envelopes. Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and @BrianKempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!”

Dec 1, 2020 at 2:56 pm ET

Barr Says No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud in Election

Election workers reviewed ballots as recount observers watched during a Milwaukee hand recount of presidential votes on Nov. 20.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

The Justice Department hasn’t found evidence of widespread voter fraud that could reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday, dealing a blow to President Trump who launched fresh legal claims to contest the results.

Mr. Barr told the Associated Press that federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have probed complaints of voter fraud, including allegations around voting machines skewing the results.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Mr. Barr told the AP.

With his comments, Mr. Barr, a strong ally of the president, directly contradicted Mr. Trump, who has said the election was stolen from him and refused to concede the race to Mr. Biden. Before the election, Mr. Barr had echoed Mr. Trump’s frequent criticism of mail-in voting, arguing it was ripe for fraud.

Mr. Trump’s legal advisers, including his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have aired conspiracy theories to explain Mr. Biden’s win, saying voting machines were tampered with and collusion among judges, election officials and elected leaders in large cities swung the race.

Mr. Trump’s legal advisers rejected Mr. Barr’s conclusion.

Dec 1, 2020 at 2:15 pm ET

Biden Says Economic Team Will Work to Recover From Jobs Crisis

President-elect Joe Biden introduced his nominees and appointees to economic policy posts in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Flanked by the people he has chosen for top economic roles, Joe was working on a plan to revitalize the U.S. economy and help the nation recover from what he called “the most unequal economic and job crisis in modern history.”

The president-elect called on Congress to pass a robust coronavirus relief bill but said a larger stimulus effort would be necessary during his administration to address the long-term impact of the pandemic.

“Any package passed in lame-duck session is, at best, just a start,” he said.

Mr. Biden named former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as his Treasury secretary nominee and Neera Tanden, head of the center-left think tank Center for American Progress, as his pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Ms. Tanden’s nomination has already drawn disapproval from some on the right and the left because of her criticism of several GOP lawmakers and allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. If confirmed, she would be the first woman of color and the first South Asian woman to oversee OMB, while Ms. Yellen would be the first female Treasury secretary.

The former vice president also announced Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University labor economist, as his choice to be chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, a former senior international economic adviser during the Obama administration, to serve as Ms. Yellen’s top deputy at the Treasury Department.

Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, Mr. Biden’s campaign economic advisers, will serve as members of the CEA alongside Ms. Rouse.

Dec 1, 2020 at 8:05 am ET

Trump Is Wild Card in Coronavirus, Spending Talks

Mr. Trump’s signature would be needed for any legislation to become law.Chris Kleponis/Press Pool

Lawmakers start a year-end sprint this week to keep the government running, provide more coronavirus aid and pass an annual defense bill, with President Trump’s focus on challenging his election loss injecting more uncertainty into the legislative outcome.

As the pandemic surges nationwide, Democratic and Republican leaders are under increasing pressure from rank-and-file lawmakers to agree on some Covid relief, prodded in part by the looming expiration of aid provisions from bills passed earlier this year. Those include broadened unemployment insurance coverage as well as expanded paid sick and family leave.

They are also working to finalize a full-year spending bill before the government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 12. And Congress must still pass the annual defense policy bill, which has broad bipartisan support—despite a veto threat from the president due to a provision to rename military bases honoring the Confederacy.

Even if lawmakers who have been mired in disagreements for months can finally coalesce around their year-end list, they will need cooperation from Mr. Trump, who has refused to concede the presidential race and continues to make allegations of fraud that have been dismissed in court.

Updated Dec 1, 2020 at 7:14 am ET

Biden’s Economic Team Draws on Deep Experience With Focus on Jobs, Wages, Inequality

Cecilia RouseMel Evans/Associated Press

President-elect Joe Biden’s choices for his White House economic team include an array of advisers with crisis experience, policy chops and a deep focus on labor markets, including how to boost wages, maximize employment and combat discrimination.

The picks also suggest an emphasis on personal relationships with the boss: Several of Mr. Biden’s choices are former Obama administration officials or advisers from his 2020 campaign. That could help elevate the influence of White House economists, especially at the Council of Economic Advisers, whose role was diminished during much of the Trump administration.

Overall, Mr. Biden’s chosen advisers favor a bigger government role in raising wages and employment.

Yellen's Biggest Challenge

Janet Yellen is Joe Biden's pick for Treasury secretary. Despite having served in essentially all of the government's top economic jobs, this role may present her greatest challenge yet: partisan politics.

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Nov 30, 2020 at 4:00 pm ET

Arizona, Wisconsin Certify Narrow Victories for Biden

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, left, and Gov. Doug Ducey certified the state’s election results on Monday in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Two important battleground states certified election results Monday, with Wisconsin and Arizona handing narrow victories to President-elect Joe Biden and further cementing his win over President Trump.

With Arizona and Wisconsin’s vote counts finalized, the six most hotly contested battleground states have all certified their results for Mr. Biden. The others are Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Mr. Trump hasn’t conceded the race and has contested the outcome in those states.

In Arizona, Monday’s certified election results showed that Mr. Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes with a popular-vote margin of just over 10,000.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, signed the official canvas documents alongside two Republican state officials, Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and chief judge of Arizona’s supreme court, Robert Brutinel, a Republican appointee.

Arizona voters last backed a Democrat for president in 1996.

Wisconsin also certified election results Monday when the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission signed the latest vote tally after recounts in the state’s two most populous counties, Milwaukee and Dane, which includes Madison.

Nov 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm ET

Georgia Secretary of State Investigates Voting Groups but Denies Widespread Fraud

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said officials have opened an investigation into third-party groups.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said state officials are investigating third-party groups trying to register people in other states to vote in Georgia, but he pushed back against accusations of widespread fraud in the state’s Nov. 3 election results.

The investigations into at least four groups’ efforts come ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Mr. Raffensperger also said the state’s machine recount of the presidential race is on schedule to be completed by Wednesday.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger certified Georgia’s Nov. 3 election results over a week ago, on Nov. 20, declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the state with 16 Electoral College votes. Mr. Biden’s margin of victory was 12,670 votes, according to official results. A hand audit confirmed the outcome.

Last week, the state’s 159 counties began a post-certification recount of the state’s 5 million presidential votes, which the Trump campaign requested. This recount is a rescanning of ballots through machines, according to state rules.

“Once this recount is complete, everyone in Georgia will be able to have even more confidence in the results of our elections,” Mr. Raffensperger said in remarks at the state Capitol Monday.

President Trump has repeatedly criticized Georgia’s recount process, along with Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Kemp, both Republicans.

Updated Nov 30, 2020 at 11:39 am ET

Biden Chooses Brian Deese as Top Economic Adviser

Brian Deese speaking at a 2015 White House briefing.Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Brian Deese, a former adviser to Barack Obama, to be the director of the National Economic Council, according to people familiar with the matter.

In his new post, which doesn’t require Senate confirmation, Mr. Deese will play a lead role in implementing Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, with a focus on rebuilding the economy amid a pandemic that has devastated many U.S. businesses and resulted in millions of lost jobs.