Republicans can’t block Democrats from passing the legislation, but they are planning to drag out the timeline. Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) forced Senate staff to read the 628-page bill aloud, which is expected to take several hours. After the reading, the Senate will conduct hours of debate and a blitz of amendment votes known as “vote-a-rama.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said the Senate would complete the legislation this week “no matter how long it takes.”
All 50 Democrats stuck together on the procedural vote, confirming that the party has coalesced around the broad relief package, while all 50 Republicans were opposed. Vice President
broke the tie in Democrats’ favor.
The legislation would send a $1,400 direct check to many Americans, provide $350 billion to state and local governments, fund vaccine distribution, and expand the child tax credit, among other measures.
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Democrats are using a legislative procedure called reconciliation that allows them to approve the legislation with a simple majority in the Senate, aiming to approve the legislation before forms of federal unemployment aid expire on March 14. Reconciliation also creates the time-consuming amendment process that could push approval of the bill into the weekend.
While the House passed the bill last week, Democrats in the Senate are making a number of changes to it. After it passes the Senate, the House will then need to approve the updated version of the bill before it goes to President Biden for his signature.
Senators narrowed the group of Americans who will receive direct payments following a push from a group of centrist Democrats. Individuals who make less than $75,000 and married couples making less than $150,000 will still receive the full $1,400 payment, but the size of the payment will shrink more quickly for people with higher incomes. The payment will hit zero for individuals making $80,000 and couples making $160,000—a drop from the previous caps of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.
Senate Democrats added a provision that would make much student-loan forgiveness free from income taxes, creating an exception from 2021 through 2025 to the normal rule that canceled debt is income.
Democrats in the Senate will remove a measure raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 that was in the legislation the House approved. Senate rules limit what provisions lawmakers can approve through reconciliation, and the chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian found that raising the minimum wage couldn’t be included in the relief bill.
Other measures in the bill that some Democrats had sought to change, including a $400 weekly jobless aid supplement, are expected to stay the same as they were in the House legislation.
Republicans have largely lined up to oppose the legislation, attacking many of its measures, including the aid for state and local governments, as wasteful and unnecessary.
“This has nothing to do with the economy. This has everything to do with just throwing a whole big pile of money at fiscally irresponsible states,” said
Sen. Pat Toomey
(R., Pa.) of the state and local aid.
Democrats have said that the legislation is necessary to bring the country through the pandemic, pointing to polls showing its popular support.
“There is enormous support for these provisions on both sides of the aisle in the country,” said
Sen. Ron Wyden
(D., Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Among the other changes Democrats in the Senate are making is increasing the size of healthcare subsidies for laid-off workers, covering 100% of health-insurance premiums people pay under Cobra, up from the 85% provided in the House.
Democrats also shuffled tax provisions in the bill. They removed a House proposal that would have frozen the growth in annual limits on contributions to retirement accounts after 2030. They replaced it with tighter limits on companies’ deductions for executive compensation—but only starting in 2027.
Senators are also providing $8.5 billion for rural healthcare providers and setting aside $10 billion of the state and local aid for infrastructure projects. For state and local aid, senators are mandating that individual states receive at least as much as they did from a previous aid package and allowing governments to use the funds for economic recovery efforts. They are also placing rules on how the funds can be used, barring states from using the aid for pensions or to finance tax cuts.
Some centrist Democrats had sought to send a slice of the state and local funding toward expanding broadband access, but the effort ran into the limitations of reconciliation, according to people familiar with the matter, preventing them from targeting the funding too closely. Instead, lawmakers targeted the $10 billion towards infrastructure generally.
—Kristina Peterson contributed to this article.
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Stellantis, the merged company resulting from the combination of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot owner PSA, is starting its journey on a strong financial footing. With the car industry and stock market gripped by technology fever, though, that isn’t enough.
Fiat Chrysler and PSA both reported their last numbers as stand-alone entities Wednesday. PSA, whose chief executive, Carlos Tavares, has taken the reins of Stellantis, passed the financial test posed by the pandemic with flying colors, including record second-half margins. On a combined basis, Stellantis, which owns brands ranging from Jeep and RAM to Citroën and Maserati, made an operating margin of 5.3% last year, behind General Motors but ahead of Ford .
Stock analysts understandably like the Stellantis story. The company expects to achieve more than €5 billion in savings through the merger, which would increase operating profits by roughly 70% from the 2020 level over the coming years. The plan is plausible, based on greater purchasing muscle with suppliers, sharing research-and-development costs and bringing new vehicles onto combined production platforms. None of this growth is factored into the share price, which trades at a discount to both GM and Ford on most measures.
But the reality is that investors these days are more interested in growth driven by new technology than old-school industrial consolidation. Electric vehicles, self-driving features and vehicle web connections present as many challenges as opportunities for even the largest car makers. And unlike companies such as GM, Hyundai and Volkswagen, Stellantis hasn’t yet articulated much of a technology strategy.
When the company unveiled its new management structure in January, only one job remained unfilled: chief technology officer. Given that Mr. Tavares had two sets of top executives to pick from, the gap suggests Stellantis needs something that neither Fiat Chrysler nor PSA could provide. Neither company was a leader in electric-vehicle technology, the foundation for other digital technologies that will transform the car this decade.
single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, President Biden plans to announce Tuesday, as the administration pushes to get the shot to the American public.
The president is expected to make the announcement while giving an update on the pandemic, White House press secretary
said. The assistance from Merck, a competitor to Johnson & Johnson, will help speed up production after the one-shot vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration Saturday.
J&J declined to comment. In a statement Tuesday, a Merck spokesman said the company “remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and to preparing to address future pandemics.”
Ms. Psaki said one of the Merck facilities will help “fill-finish” the vaccine— a step in which vials are filled with vaccines, capped and readied for shipment—and the other will help produce the vaccine.
She said conversations between J&J and Merck were under way and the administration helped in completing the deal, in part by providing Merck with a commitment to help with upgrading its facilities for vaccine production. An administration official said Mr. Biden was invoking the Defense Production Act to give Merck priority access to supplies, including purchase of machinery, tubes and filtration systems.
Ms. Psaki declined to detail the role administration officials played, but she said they took steps to help expedite manufacturing after learning J&J was behind on its production. J&J executives have said they ran into challenges in scaling manufacturing output but that they would deliver 100 million vaccines to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.
White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients worked on the deal with the two companies’ chief executives and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, a person familiar with the situation said.
J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., had made nearly four million doses for shipments that began going out this week. The Biden administration said it expected about 20 million doses to be delivered by the end of March.
The Biden administration has said it expects to have enough Covid-19 shots for all Americans by the end of July based on agreements to purchase vaccines from
Ms. Psaki said ramping up the production of J&J’s vaccine will speed up that timeline.
Moderna, Pfizer and J&J, without the supplement from Merck, are scheduled to supply enough doses in the U.S. in March to vaccinate about 80 million people, according to analysts from Evercore ISI. In April, enough doses will be supplied for 125 million people, assuming shots from
PLC and Novavax Inc. are cleared for use, according to Evercore. By the end of May, the analysts projected the U.S. will have received enough Covid-19 vaccine doses since December to fully vaccinate 345 million people.
Merck, a Kenilworth, N.J., firm, is a pioneer in vaccines, such as those to prevent mumps and shingles, but it scrapped two programs to develop a Covid-19 vaccine in January after disappointing clinical studies. The company was also slower to pursue Covid-19 vaccines, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.
The partnership between J&J and Merck would mark the latest example of pharmaceutical rivals working together to make Covid-19 vaccines.
are helping to make the shot from Pfizer and its partner
The partnership comes as Mr. Biden’s administration has emphasized the urgency of vaccinating the public against Covid-19 and warned of a new and more transmissible variant that is rapidly spreading across the country.
Mr. Zients said Monday that the administration had begun distributing 3.9 million doses of the J&J vaccine to states, tribes and territories, as well as to pharmacies and community health centers. Mr. Zients said the company had communicated to the administration that supply “will be limited for the next couple of weeks” after the initial distribution but expected to deliver additional doses by the end of March.
The $1 billion contract J&J signed with the U.S. government called for it to have 12 million doses ready by the end of February. The contract allowed the company to make the deliveries up to 30 days late if it ran into delays.
—Jared Hopkins and Stephanie Armour contributed to this article.
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WASHINGTON—President Biden and Democratic allies on Monday worked to iron out the remaining disputes over the coronavirus relief package that they hope to push through the Senate this week, despite left-wing frustrations over the exclusion of a minimum-wage increase.
Senate Democrats, who had tried over the weekend to salvage a more limited wage increase through the tax code, scrapped that backup plan late Sunday. With that off the table, Mr. Biden spoke with a group of Senate Democrats about advancing the rest of the bill, as the party works to pass its agenda with narrow majorities in both chambers.
Some of the members of the Democratic caucus who met virtually with Mr. Biden said the discussion focused on targeting some of the bill’s aid.
“There really isn’t a lot of dispute about the overall size of the bill,” Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), said after the meeting. “The question is whether it can be targeted in such a way as to better serve the people who need the most and perhaps free up funds for other priorities.”
Some Democrats have been focusing on how the $350 billion in funding for state and local governments is allocated. Others have pressed to shift the current income thresholds for the $1,400 direct checks that many Americans would get under the bill so that fewer upper-middle-class families get money. Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said some changes would likely be made through amendments but would amount to modest alterations to the bill.
A sideways glance in a video chat. An email that drifts off into ellipses. And why did your boss even add you to this calendar invite anyway?
We were once fluent in the nonverbal cues of the physical office. Slumped shoulders or a downcast look were enough to know when the boss was disappointed or a colleague stressed. A cryptic email often only necessitated rotating our chairs 180 degrees to get clarification from the sender.
Besides, we had all day to figure it out, gleaning little hints from the walk to refill our coffee cups or the minutes spent mingling before meetings. Now our work interactions are boiled down to 15-minute peeks into each others’ lives on Zoom calls, or a volley of emails with no additional context. Trying to read body language through a screen has become another exhausting part of the workday.
“We feel like we have one hand tied behind our back,” says Traci Brown, a speaker and author on body language based in Boulder, Colo.
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There are still plenty of ways to read nonverbal cues if you know where to look, Ms. Brown says. Start with people’s movements during video calls—a colleague crossing her arms could signal she’s closed off to an idea or has some information you’re not considering, she says. A quickening or slowing blink rate can signify stress. And pay attention to eyebrows. Eyebrows pointing down toward the middle of your nose indicate anger; eyebrows in a neutral position but curled up in the middle point to sadness, Ms. Brown says.
The approach isn’t foolproof. That colleague with the crossed arms could just be feeling cold. Consider body language your tip that you need to probe deeper to find out what’s really going on with someone.
Much of our analysis of others at work used to happen subconsciously, the result of years of evolution. Now we either must ignore our previously useful assumptions or we’re left confused and mistaken.
“The gestures we’ve been raised on our whole lives, they’re continuing, but they don’t command the same meaning they once did,” says
founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and a communication professor at the school.
Take staring. Gazing directly into someone’s eyes for more than one to two seconds is interpreted as intimacy or a precursor to conflict, Dr. Bailenson says, triggering our fight-or-flight response. Now we lock eyes all day on Zoom. And our images on screen are generally bigger than typical personal space would afford in the office. The perceived closeness can make us uncomfortable, or convince us we’re held in higher regard by a meeting attendee than we actually are, he says.
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Tony Caleca, managing partner at St. Louis accounting and consulting firm Brown Smith Wallace, was used to his colleague Steve pushing his shoulders forward and sliding up in his seat when he was ready to share during an in-person meeting. But on video the motion felt more dramatic.
“It was a little bit alarming at first,” Mr. Caleca says. “It felt like he was coming at you.” Mr. Caleca started reminding himself the image was just Steve getting ready to speak.
Valeria Klamm, a manager of practice growth at the same firm, has found herself freezing on video calls nearly daily due to a poor internet connection. When the frame includes a furrowed brow, colleagues can get the wrong message.
“We were worried that maybe she was offended by something we said,” says Kelly Peery, a colleague who was recently on a call where everyone laughed at a shared joke, except for a silent, angry-looking Ms. Klamm. It was just another freeze.
“I should just have a sign that says, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ ” says the 32-year-old Ms. Klamm. “I’m like, darn it, how long have I been frozen? I’m here. I’ve been engaged. How long has it looked like I haven’t been engaged?”
Written communication can be just as fraught. People are tripped up by everything from the brevity of emails—nothing chills like a reply that’s just a single question mark—to the timing.
Erica Dhawan, author of the forthcoming book “Digital Body Language” and CEO of Cotential, a New York-based consulting firm focused on collaboration, suggests puzzled clients ask for clarity if they have a close relationship with the sender, and just assume good intent if they don’t. Remember that punctuation marks like ellipses are often wielded differently by generation—older workers might mean nothing by them, while younger workers read them as sarcastic. Some might adore emojis, while others remain baffled by them.
Devising organizational norms can help. Ms. Dhawan had a health insurance company coin abbreviations that denoted how quickly the sender expected the recipient to reply. Including “4H” in a subject line signified the note necessitated a response within four hours.
If something vexing—say, a message that opens with a passive-aggressive “per my last email”—happens three times, it’s probably worth a candid conversation, Ms. Dhawan says. You could share examples of virtual interactions that were confusing or concerning. Or ask yourself whether switching mediums might swiftly fix the issue.
“A phone call is worth a thousand emails,” she says.
Read the Digital Room
Avoid getting tripped up by digital body language, with tips from Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson and author Erica Dhawan:
Add some space: Reduce the size of your Zoom window so meeting attendees don’t appear uncomfortably close.
Hide the self-view: Staring at yourself the whole meeting isn’t a good way to catch others’ cues.
Pay attention to changes: If your usually casual boss pivots to using more formal language, something might be up.
Don’t overreact: If someone sends you a confusing or slightly passive-aggressive email, assume good intent. If the communication doesn’t impact your ability to get the work done, it might be fine to just let it go. If something happens three times, it’s time for a candid chat.
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The cyberattack that compromised many U.S. government and corporate networks is fueling a debate among big tech companies over what the safest way is for customers to store critical data.
It pits Microsoft Corp., which is urging clients to rely on cloud-computing systems, against others including Dell Technologies Inc. and
International Business Machines Corp.
, who argue customers want to mix the cloud with the more traditional on-premise data-storage systems in a construct called hybrid-cloud.
Government and industry cybersecurity experts for about two months have been trying to unravel details of the incident that is causing a reassessment of long-held networking-security assumptions. The hackers, investigators believe, gained access via networking company SolarWinds Corp. and other avenues of attack.
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In a House committee hearing about the hack Friday, Microsoft President
said in prepared remarks, that “cloud migration is critical to improving security maturity across many organizations.” All of the attacks the company has identified involved on-premise systems, he has previously said.
The debate is part of the fallout from the suspected Russia-led hack that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), on Tuesday said may be in scope and scale “beyond any that we’ve confronted as a nation.”
Microsoft, one of the world’s biggest cloud vendors, has said cloud services offer customers the most robust data protection. A mixed approach “creates an additional seam that organizations need to secure. A consequence of this decision is that if the on-premises environment is compromised, this creates opportunities for attackers to target cloud services,” Microsoft said in a blog post on its investigation of the hack.
The notion that the hybrid cloud is less secure is inaccurate, said
chief executive of Red Hat, the business IBM acquired two years ago in part in a bet on the growing demand for hybrid cloud services. “Any software could get broken into. The cloud providers could get broken into as well,” he said.
Companies traditionally invested in big servers to store much of the data on their products and customers. That changed about a decade ago, with the rise of cloud-computing.
and Microsoft popularized the business model where they provide remote hardware and software on a pay-as-you-go basis, eliminating the need for companies to buy and maintain expensive equipment. The cloud business has been a major earnings driver for both.
There is no indication Amazon’s systems were directly breached, but hackers used its sprawling cloud-computing data centers to launch a key part of the attack, security researchers have said. Senators expressed irritation that Amazon didn’t participate in a Senate hearing on the hack. Amazon said it was “not affected by the SolarWinds issue” and had shared with law enforcement what it knew and had briefed government officials and lawmakers.
“ ‘Any software could get broken into. The cloud providers could get broken into as well.’ ”
— Paul Cormier, CEO of Red Hat
One of the biggest security concerns around cloud computing is fear that the compromise of a service provider could lead to a broad set of its customers having their data accessed, cybersecurity experts have said.
Expecting customers to shift all of their data to the cloud is impractical, Red Hat’s Mr. Cormier said. Many companies, especially in the financial industry, are required to keep data on-premises for security or regulatory reasons, he said.
Holding data in-house is seen as safer by many customers, said
a former Microsoft cloud executive and senior vice president for hybrid-cloud services at
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
HPE didn’t find any of its customers exposed to the SolarWinds attacks, he said in an interview.
“One key reason to keep things on-premise is because the customer wants to know where their data is,” Mr. White said.
Raising questions about hybrid-cloud security “serves the broader Microsoft narrative,”
a senior vice president of Dell Technologies’ cloud business and former Microsoft cloud executive, told the Journal. “But the reality is, look at a majority of customers, their workloads are running on-prem.” Dell sells hardware and software to manage hybrid cloud systems.
Microsoft in a statement said “we offer security options for both cloud and on-premises deployments” but added that the protection built into the cloud requires more effort to deliver to on-site servers.
In remarks for the Friday congressional hearing, Microsoft’s Mr. Smith said that “when Microsoft’s cloud services are attacked, we can detect anomalies and indicators of compromise in ways that are not possible in an on-premises environment.” The company also couldn’t hunt for the Russian hackers in on-premises networks, he said.
The SolarWinds attack affected at least nine federal agencies and 100 private companies and dates back at least to September 2019. U.S. authorities say the intruders are likely Russian intelligence agents. Moscow has denied responsibility.
Microsoft itself was a victim in the attack and had some of its source code used to write software downloaded. The hackers viewed software linked to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, the company said. Mr. Smith, at the Senate hearing on the hack on Tuesday, called for a “full examination of what other cloud services and networks the Russians have accessed.”
Historically Microsoft has had a large on-premise business with its Windows operating system running servers. But under CEO
the software powerhouse has aggressively pushed its customers toward its cloud products. It still provides products that facilitate customers using their data centers.
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