President Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill plan to formally introduce his immigration overhaul in the House on Thursday morning, making good on his campaign promise to seek to modernize the nation’s immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans.
The unveiling puts a spotlight on a high-profile and thorny political issue that Mr. Biden is hoping to address, despite the steep political challenges associated with moving immigration legislation in Congress.
It comes at a time when the president and Democratic lawmakers are already in the midst of another major legislative undertaking: passing another coronavirus relief package. A planned trip by Mr. Biden to visit a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Thursday was postponed until Friday because of a winter storm in the Washington area.
Though Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan is all but certain to command attention on Capitol Hill in the near term, the introduction of the immigration overhaul provides a reminder that a number of daunting issues unrelated to the pandemic lie ahead as well.
Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Representative Linda T. Sánchez, Democrat of California, are expected to hold a news conference to unveil the immigration legislation, which is based on a proposal Mr. Biden announced on his first day in office. Mr. Menendez’s office said in a news release that the lawmakers would be joined by 10 of their colleagues for the announcement.
White House officials provided details of the measure, which will be called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, in a briefing with reporters Wednesday evening.
The centerpiece of the legislation is an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States as of Jan. 1. After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work in the United States for five years. After that, they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the United States and the opportunity to win citizenship after three more years.
But the bill tries to make the most far-reaching changes in immigration law in more than three decades. It would sweep away restrictions on family-based immigration, making it easier for spouses and children to join their families already in the country. And it would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the United States for jobs.
Unlike previous efforts to overhaul immigration, the legislation does not include a large focus on increased border enforcement. Instead, the bill adds resources to process migrants legally at ports of entry and invests $4 billion over four years in distressed economies in the hopes of preventing people from fleeing to the United States because of security and economic crises.
Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.
Senator Mitch McConnell’s colleagues may not have deep personal affection for their often distant and inscrutable leader, but there is considerable appreciation for how he has spared them from difficult votes while maintaining a laserlike focus on keeping the Senate majority.
His approach on Saturday at the conclusion of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial seemed aimed at doing just that. After voting to acquit Mr. Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot that invaded the Senate chamber, Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, began a fiery tirade, declaring him “practically and morally responsible” for the assault. In essence, Mr. McConnell said he found Mr. Trump guilty but not subject to impeachment as a private citizen.
The strategy appeared twofold: Don’t stoke a full-on revolt by Trump supporters the party needs by voting to convict, but demonstrate to anti-Trump Republicans — particularly big donors — that he recognized Mr. Trump’s failings and is beginning to steer the party in another direction.
But it did not exactly produce the desired result. Instead, it has drawn Mr. McConnell into a vicious feud with the former president, who lashed out at him on Tuesday as a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack,” and given new cause for Republican division that could spill into the midterm elections. And it has left some Republicans bewildered over Mr. McConnell’s strategy.
The miscalculation has left Mr. McConnell in an unusual place — on the defensive, with Mr. Trump pressing for his ouster, and no easy way to extricate himself from the political bind.
“McConnell has many talents, there is no doubt about it, but if he is setting this thing up as a way to expunge Trump from the Republican Party, that is a failing proposition,” Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Mr. McConnell has been conspicuously silent since the attack by Mr. Trump. He made no effort to walk back his Saturday speech or a subsequent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, but he now also appears uninterested in further inflaming the fight by punching back at Mr. Trump. David Popp, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, declined to comment on Wednesday.
Rush Limbaugh wasn’t the first conservative media star to endorse Donald Trump for president. But he was among the first to popularize — and normalize, for many Republican politicians and voters — the style of politics that would become synonymous with the Trump name.
Mr. Trump’s widespread appeal with voters initially confused many people in politics. But anyone who was a regular listener of Mr. Limbaugh’s three-hour weekday radio program, which reached roughly 15 million listeners each week, would have been less surprised.
“To conservatives, it all sounded familiar,” said Nicole Hemmer, a media scholar at Columbia University and the author of a book on Mr. Limbaugh and other conservative media figures, “Messengers of the Right.”
“The insults, the nicknames, the really outrageous statements — they had been enjoying that as a form of political entertainment for a quarter-century before Donald Trump,” Dr. Hemmer added.
There was no person or subject that was off-limits for Mr. Limbaugh’s ire. Black people, gay men and lesbians, feminists, people with AIDS, the 12-year-old daughter of a president, an advocate for victims of domestic violence: All found themselves the subject of denigrating put-downs by Mr. Limbaugh over the years.
Few media stars were as crucial in making disinformation, false rumors and fringe ideas the right’s new reality. And toward the end of the Trump presidency, Mr. Limbaugh’s willingness to indulge the paranoia among Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters was especially powerful in misleading people to believe that bad news about their president — like his loss in November or his mismanagement of the coronavirus response — was simply made up by his enemies or the result of a nefarious plot.
Mr. Limbaugh rarely apologized for his comments and often attacked those who called him out, arguing that they were taking him too seriously or twisting his words out of context. Often, Mr. Limbaugh denied he had said what his critics claimed.
Both Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Trump made fun of people with disabilities. Mr. Limbaugh once shook his body during a broadcast to mimic the actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Trump, in a strikingly similar display, once flapped his arms in a cruel imitation of a New York Times reporter who has limited use of his upper body.
But it was more than their behavior. The way their fans were similarly eager to defend the most indefensible conduct of both men was a sign that the nation’s political divide was hardening into something more personal and tribal. Mr. Limbaugh’s most loyal listeners developed a capacity to excuse almost anything he did and deflect, saying liberals were merely being hysterical or hateful.
And many loved him even more for it.
Jabir McKnight woke up on the morning of Jan. 6 with an uneasy feeling.
As he walked that Wednesday to Capitol Hill, where he had always felt safe, images of white supremacist violence in Charleston, S.C., and Charlottesville, Va., began to race through his head.
Hours before the violent pro-Trump mob rampaged through the halls of Congress, leaving nearly 140 police officers injured and five people dead, Mr. McKnight recalled, he could not shake the sense that something very bad was about to happen.
“The writing was on the wall for this,” said Mr. McKnight, 23, who is the communications director for Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.
Only a small percentage of congressional aides are Black. Since the attack, Mr. McKnight and others who were in nearby offices in the Capitol complex that day have been talking among themselves about how close the violence came to them, what it means to experience such a virulent expression of racism in what is supposed to be a citadel of liberty, and the suspicion they now feel toward other aides, members of Congress and random people they encounter as they go about their business on Capitol Hill.
“It makes the trauma worse,” Mr. McKnight said. “Because as you’re walking around, you don’t know who could have been involved with what.”
Symbols of racism and white supremacy were on full display at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Rioters paraded the Confederate battle flag through the halls. One man wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, while others flew the flag of the fictional country Kekistan, which mimics a Nazi war flag.
The staff members described feelings of fear about the physical threat and anger about the psychic damage done by the mob.
“I never though I’d see the Confederate flag walked through the halls of Congress,” said Mike McQuerry, 50, the communications director for Delegate Stacey Plaskett, Democrat of the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager in the trial of former President Donald J. Trump. “As much as we think we’ve had progress, we haven’t progressed that much.”
After the siege, congressional aides have reported trouble sleeping and feeling anxious, claustrophobic, angry and depressed. Lawmakers have requested additional resources to support the mental health needs of employees in response to surging demand.
Despite what they experienced that day, Mr. McQuerry, who is from Detroit, said staff members felt an obligation to push on with work.
“There’s not that many of us that work up here,” he said of Black aides to members of Congress. “It’s affected us tremendously. We have to just push through. I think we deal with it every day. PTSD is really real.”