The Covid-19 Relief Bill Has Passed. Now Biden and the GOP Both Plan to Tell Voters What’s in It.

WASHINGTON—President

Biden

signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package into law Thursday, as he and Republican leaders in Congress began competing to shape voters’ perceptions of Mr. Biden’s first big legislative win and the early days of his presidency.

The new law will provide a $1,400 check to many Americans, with the first direct payments deposited into bank accounts as soon as this weekend. It will extend a $300 weekly jobless-aid supplement and expand the child tax credit for one year. It also will distribute money to schools, and state and local governments, and fund vaccination efforts along with offering support to multiemployer pensions and increasing subsidies for people who buy into health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, one day after the bill passed the House.

The president gave an address Thursday evening, laying out a plan for getting the pandemic under control one year after much of the U.S. economy slowed severely as the virus spread. Mr. Biden directed states to make all American adults eligible by May 1 to sign up to receive a vaccine and said that families and friends could gather in small groups to celebrate Independence Day if they continue to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

In his first prime-time address to the nation, President Biden called on states to expand Covid-19 vaccine access and make all adults in the U.S. eligible by May 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

“There is hope and light and better days ahead if we all do our part,” Mr. Biden said.

The White House plans to host a ceremonial gathering with congressional leaders on Friday to celebrate the signing.

The president and Democrats are emphasizing the importance of expanding the government’s safety net during a pandemic and of boosting a nascent economic recovery with massive assistance from Washington.

Republicans, who have remained united in opposition to the aid package, are focusing on the fact that the economy is already pulling out of the doldrums and are portraying the new law less as a relief package than an expensive embrace of longtime Democratic priorities.

Congress has passed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that provides an economic boost to Americans. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib breaks down what’s in the bill and why it’s significant for the Biden administration. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Both parties are seeking to frame public perception of the law in the early stages of the administration, leading into the November 2022 midterm elections. Those typically go against the party in power, posing a test to Democrats’ slender hold on the House and Senate.

The Biden administration plans a substantial promotional push. The president will return to campaign in battleground states next week, with stops in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday and Atlanta on Friday, while Vice President

Kamala Harris

plans to visit Las Vegas and Denver next week and join Mr. Biden in Atlanta.

White House aides said the tour would include appearances by Mr. Biden with Republican mayors and governors. Some state and local GOP leaders, such as Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia and Miami Mayor

Francis Suarez,

have already expressed support.

“We will spend some time both in explaining and in deepening the understanding of what’s inside this package around the country,” said White House counselor

Steve Ricchetti.

President Biden is set to sign the Covid-19 relief bill into law Friday.



Photo:

al drago/press pool

Republicans contend that showing voters what is in the package will be effective—for them.

“We believe the American people need to learn more and more about it and we’re going to see that they do that in the coming months,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday, calling the measure a “classic example of big-government Democratic overreach in the name of Covid relief.”

GOP leaders didn’t present a full-fledged alternative to the Democratic plan, though a group of Republican senators offered a $618 billion package and some individual Republicans made proposals on the minimum wage and child tax credit.

Republicans have criticized the price tag of Mr. Biden’s bill, coming after Congress authorized about $4 trillion in relief last year. They point out that checks will be issued to people who have not lost jobs or income, that money will be spent on schools in future years and that funding is going to state and local governments even though the pandemic damage to their revenues wasn’t as serious as expected.

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“Run a poll and say, ‘Would you like the government to send you a big check?’ My guess is that’s going to poll pretty well,” said

Sen. John Kennedy

(R., La.). “But why are we sending checks to people who have never missed a paycheck?”

David Winston,

a Republican strategist, said that the bill included spending unrelated to coronavirus. “You have money for museums in there—not that that’s not an important expenditure at some point, but is it part of Covid?’’ Republicans will tell voters that they voted to help people struggling in the pandemic but drew the line at unrelated spending, he said.

Mr. Biden’s team has countered that the plan is popular with voters, pointing to public opinion polls. The bill drew 70% support among adults in a Pew Research Center survey this month, including 41% of Republicans, and it garnered more than 60% support in two polls released Wednesday, by Monmouth University and CNN.

Democrats are keenly aware of what they consider a failed effort to sell former President

Barack Obama’s

stimulus effort in 2009, which Republicans derided as bloated and wasteful, and the Affordable Care Act a year later. Mr. Obama’s party suffered sweeping losses in the 2010 midterm elections, a fate Mr. Biden hopes to avoid.

“Barack was so modest, he didn’t want to take, as he said, a ‘victory lap,’” Mr. Biden told House Democrats during a virtual meeting last week. “I kept saying, ‘Tell people what we did.’ He said, ‘We don’t have time. I’m not going to take a victory lap.’ And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility.”

Jen O’Malley Dillon,

White House deputy chief of staff, said in a memo that the administration would seek to highlight 10 aspects of the plan, including funding for vaccinations, direct payments to individuals up to a specified income threshold, financial aid to accelerate school opening, rental and mortgage assistance, and help for small businesses.

Some of the provisions in the bill are temporary. Enhanced unemployment benefits run through September. Additional subsidies for people who buy Affordable Care Act plans will expire after two years. The expanded child tax credit expires after a year. Democrats, who believe the expanded tax credit will be popular, are aiming to make the change permanent, potentially putting Republicans in the uncomfortable position of opposing it.

Mr. Biden will hold the first formal news conference of his presidency later in the month. In the coming weeks, he will address a joint session of Congress. One step Mr. Biden won’t be taking, which his predecessor did: Adding his signature to the memorandum line of the stimulus checks expected to be sent to qualifying Americans later this month.

At stake is the balance of power in Washington come the midterm elections in 2022. The party that holds the White House typically loses seats. Democrats, for example, lost more than 60 House seats in Mr. Obama’s first midterm, in 2010, and Republicans lost more than 40 seats in 2018, former President

Donald Trump’s

midterm year.

Democrats will be defending a narrow majority in the House and 50-50 control in the Senate, where the vice president currently casts any tiebreaking votes. In the Senate, Republicans will be defending 20 seats, including in states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio where GOP incumbents have announced retirements. Democrats need to defend a smaller slate of 14 seats, but they include seats representing presidential battleground states such as Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.

Republicans are expected to argue that, right from his first major legislative push, Mr. Biden abandoned the bipartisanship that he touted in the campaign, noting that Republican suggestions were rejected. “Frankly, what this really is is a lot of payoffs to special interests that the Democrats want. And that’s why they wanted zero Republican input,” said

Rep. Don Bacon

(R., Neb.).

The White House says the administration was willing to hear Republican input, but not to delay what they saw as an urgent process. “Republicans can be really tone deaf to the economic hardship that literally tens and tens and tens of millions are going through right now,” said

John Anzalone,

Mr. Biden’s campaign pollster. “This is a lifeline.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell exits the Senate floor in Washington on Tuesday.



Photo:

erin scott/Reuters

Polling also suggests Republicans worry about the bill’s effect on the national debt, but that the concern isn’t widely shared. In the Pew Research Center survey, 61% of Republicans, but only 33% of Americans overall, said they believed the bill spent too much money.

Gene Ulm, a Republican pollster who works largely for House candidates, said: “I think the bill’s best day for Democrats is right now, and every day further it will be on a decline.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle

(D., Pa.) praised the White House promotion of the bill, calling it key between now and the midterms, lest voters forget.

“I wouldn’t say worry, but the one concern I have is if it’s a year and 8 months from now and we’ve done such a good job on vaccine distribution and such a good job on reviving things, sometimes people have short memories,” he said.

and Andrew Restuccia contributed to this article.

Write to Ken Thomas at ken.thomas@wsj.com, Catherine Lucey at catherine.lucey@wsj.com and Aaron Zitner at Aaron.Zitner@dowjones.com

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Aides Called Former Staffers to Discredit Accuser

In the days after New York Gov.

Andrew Cuomo

was first accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, the governor’s office called at least six former employees either to find out if they had heard from the accuser or to glean information about her in conversations that some said they saw as attempts to intimidate them.

Some of the people who received the calls said they hadn’t heard from the administration in months before getting the call about the accuser. One said a caller encouraged them to give reporters any information discrediting the accuser, Lindsey Boylan, who worked as an economic adviser for the Cuomo administration between 2015 and 2018.

The calls were made by current administration officials and former aides who are still close to the governor’s office, according to several recipients. The outreach came at the behest of

Melissa DeRosa,

the governor’s top aide, according to people familiar with the effort.

“I felt intimidated, and I felt bewildered,” said Ana Liss, a former aide to the governor who received one of the calls.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately and has apologized for any behavior that might have been misinterpreted.



Photo:

Seth Wenig/Press Pool

Ms. Liss, who earlier this month accused Mr. Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, said that Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, phoned her on Dec. 21. The call came eight days after Ms. Boylan said in a post on Twitter that the governor sexually harassed her.

Ms. Liss hadn’t worked for the governor in more than five years and couldn’t remember the last time the administration had been in touch, she said.

She said Mr. Azzopardi reminded her on the call of how much she had accomplished during her time working for the governor and asked her if she had received a message from Ms. Boylan. She told him she hadn’t and said the conversation ended on a friendly note.

At a press conference following allegations of sexual harassment and calls from some to resign, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he apologized if he offended anyone or caused anyone pain by past actions, but he said he isn’t going to resign. Photo: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Mr. Azzopardi said in a statement: “After Ms. Boylan’s tweets in December, she, and her lawyers and members of the press began reaching out to former members of the Chamber, many of whom never worked with her. Those former members of the Chamber called to let various staff people know and convey that they were upset by the outreach. As a result, we proactively reached out to some former colleagues to check in and make sure they had a heads up.”

Mr. Azzopardi said the calls weren’t coordinated by Ms. DeRosa. “There was no directed effort—this outreach happened organically when everyone’s phone started to blow up.” He added that they didn’t intimidate anyone.

In Twitter posts after this story was published, Ms. Boylan said she didn’t reach out to anyone in December and didn’t have a lawyer at the time.

Three former employees from his time as governor and one current aide to Mr. Cuomo have accused the governor of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment in the workplace, prompting calls from Republicans and high-ranking state Democrats for him to resign.

‘I felt intimidated, and I felt bewildered,’ said Ana Liss, a former aide to the governor who received one of the calls.



Photo:

libby march for The Wall Street Journal

Democrats who dominate the state Assembly have launched an impeachment investigation that will look at the allegations as well as how the Cuomo administration handled Covid-19 in nursing homes. State Attorney General Letitia James is now overseeing an investigation into the accusations made by the former aides and how Mr. Cuomo’s office handled the complaints.

Mr. Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately and has apologized for any behavior that might have been misinterpreted. He has also called for New Yorkers to withhold judgment until Ms. James’s investigation is complete.

Ms. Boylan has said Mr. Cuomo tried to kiss her on the lips in his office and, during a 2017 flight on his plane, suggested they play strip poker.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo has denied Ms. Boylan’s allegations.

Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Mr. Cuomo asked about her sex life and whether she had relationships with older men. Ms. Liss has said he asked her if she had a boyfriend, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk. A fourth woman this week accused the governor of touching her inappropriately during an encounter at the Executive Mansion last year.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said: “As I said yesterday, I have never done anything like this. The details of this report are gut-wrenching. I am not going to speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation given the ongoing review, but I am confident in the result of the Attorney General’s report.”

The governor, in previous statements, has encouraged women to come forward and said his office would cooperate with Ms. James’s inquiry.

But Mr. Cuomo and his aides have gone after accusers and rivals in the past, according to court documents and former staffers.

In October 2000, Mr. Cuomo, when he was the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was accused of sex discrimination and harassment in an internal memo filed by Susan Gaffney, a former HUD inspector general. She accused Mr. Cuomo and other HUD officials of intimidation and harassment after she launched a congressionally requested audit into some of the work Mr. Cuomo had overseen.

Ms. Gaffney testified to Congress in 1998 that Mr. Cuomo’s aides attempted to smear her, including publicizing an anonymous letter that Mr. Cuomo had allegedly received saying she was targeting minorities.

At one point, Mr. Cuomo assured her that he had nothing to do with the actions by key aides, she said. “I suggested that, if his key aides were acting without his approval, he should fire them; the Secretary did not respond,” she said in the 1998 testimony, adding that tactics used by Mr. Cuomo and his aides were “dirty tricks” to force her to resign.

Ms. Gaffney couldn’t be reached.

After Ms. Boylan tweeted her account in December, she said in a Feb. 24 Medium post that media outlets received “parts of a supposed confidential personnel file” from her time with the administration. Ms. Boylan said in the post that she had never seen the file and that it was an effort to smear her.

In response to Ms. Boylan’s claim about her personnel record, Beth Garvey, the acting counsel to the governor, said: “With certain limited exceptions, as a general matter, it is within a government entity’s discretion to share redacted employment records, including in instances when members of the media ask for such public information and when it is for the purpose of correcting inaccurate or misleading statements.”

Ms. Boylan also said in the Medium post that “the Governor’s loyalists called around town, asking about me.”

One recipient of a call said the caller asked in December if Ms. Boylan had been in touch with the recipient, and what the recipient thought of her claims.

Another recipient of a call said that a caller, a current official in the Cuomo administration, asked if reporters had been contacted about Ms. Boylan and wanted to confirm the nature of the recipient’s experience with Ms. Boylan. “The subtext was clear: I was being asked to dish dirt on her,” the recipient said.

Write to Khadeeja Safdar at khadeeja.safdar@wsj.com, Deanna Paul at deanna.paul@wsj.com and Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com

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Federal Renter-Assistance Effort Thrown Into Doubt by Conflicting Court Rulings

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration’s effort to help millions of tenants who have fallen behind on their rent avoid eviction has been thrown into doubt by a series of conflicting court rulings.

The rulings, including one Wednesday that declared a government eviction moratorium unlawful, come as the administration seeks to distribute some $46.6 billion in rental assistance authorized by Congress. The aid is being administered by state and local governments, many of which are still setting up their assistance programs.

The eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires on March 31, and the administration is considering next steps, a process that could be complicated by ongoing legal battles. Court rulings so far have created uncertainty for landlords and renters around the nation and potentially place some tenants at risk.

“We are up against the clock, with a race to get the money to those who need it before thousands of mom-and-pop landlords go out of business and millions of renters wind up on the street,” said

Jim Parrott,

an Obama administration housing adviser who is now an industry consultant.

Spokesmen for the White House and the CDC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The moratorium, which originated from an executive order signed by then-President

Donald Trump

in September, protects tenants who have missed monthly rent payments from being thrown out of their homes if they declare financial hardship.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge

J. Philip Calabrese

in Ohio declared the moratorium unlawful and invalid because it exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority as delegated by Congress. Judge Calabrese didn’t issue an immediate injunction blocking it, saying that extra step was unnecessary.

“The most natural and logical reading of the statute as a whole does not extend the CDC’s power as far” as the government maintained, Judge Calabrese wrote, though he acknowledged there are other court rulings that disagreed with his own.

Ethan Blevins, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, including a group of landlords and the National Association of Home Builders, said the ruling helps ensure that landlords get paid like any other small business.

“We don’t want smaller landlords to be going into foreclosure,” he said. “We want them to have the option to do what they need to do to survive the difficult economy.”

Diane Yentel,

president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said lawsuits to overturn the eviction moratorium are “frivolous” now that Congress has appropriated $46.6 billion to address rental arrears. She said the moratorium should be extended until aid is distributed.

“These landlords will be made whole, but it will take time to get the money into their hands,” she said.

The Ohio decision came two weeks after a federal judge in Texas issued a broad constitutional ruling that the moratorium exceeded the federal government’s powers to regulate interstate commerce.

The Justice Department is appealing that decision.

Other judges have rejected challenges to the moratorium.

In a December ruling in Louisiana, a federal judge said the CDC had clear legal authority to “take those measures that it deems reasonably necessary to prevent the spread of disease, so long as it determines that the measures taken by any state or local government are insufficient.”

That decision followed a similar ruling from Georgia last October.

Other cases are in progress, including one in which Realtors associations and several housing providers are challenging the moratorium in a Washington, D.C., federal court.

Write to Andrew Ackerman at andrew.ackerman@wsj.com and Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com

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Merrick Garland Confirmed as Biden’s Attorney General

WASHINGTON—The Senate confirmed

Merrick Garland

as

President Biden’s

attorney general, putting a respected jurist and experienced former prosecutor in charge of a Justice Department poised to confront a rising threat of domestic extremism and aggressively enforce civil-rights law amid a nationwide reckoning on race and policing.

Mr. Garland, 68 years old, was confirmed in a 70-30 vote, with both Democrats and Republicans hailing him as uniquely equipped to restore morale, stability and institutional integrity to a Justice Department roiled by political storms during the Trump administration. Twenty Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats in confirming Mr. Garland.

One of them was Sen. Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell

(R., Ky.), who as majority leader blocked President

Barack Obama’s

nomination of Mr. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, said in a statement before the vote: “I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight shooter and legal expert. His left-of-center perspective has been within the legal mainstream.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, applauds after swearing in Marcia Fudge as Housing and Urban Development Secretary on Wednesday.



Photo:

Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Mr. Garland, who spent 24 years on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is expected to be sworn in Thursday. He has said he would combat extremist violence and make a first priority of an extensive federal investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He has cited his own experience overseeing prosecutions into several major acts of domestic terrorism, including the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. A senior Justice Department official at the time, Mr. Garland was personally involved in the investigation, which he has said solidified for him the urgency and complexity of the domestic terror threat.

While the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack is expected to continue largely unchanged under new leadership, Mr. Garland will oversee what is expected to be a dramatic shift in the Justice Department’s approach to a series of other issues, from civil-rights enforcement and police reform to the use of the federal death penalty and the level of discretion prosecutors have in charging crimes.

Mr. Garland said during his confirmation hearing that he would pursue strong enforcement of civil-rights laws, focusing on hate-crimes prosecutions, voting rights and the equitable treatment of minorities in the criminal-justice system after last year’s nationwide protests over killings of Black people by police. He said he planned to address “the problem of mass incarceration” and signaled that his Justice Department would show leniency for some lower-level drug offenders, reversing Trump administration policy.

Mr. Garland also expressed deep skepticism about the use of the federal death penalty, which Trump officials revived after a nearly 20-year hiatus and Mr. Biden has said he would end.

The new attorney general said he would be independent in his oversight of several politically sensitive investigations begun under the previous administration, including a criminal tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and a special-counsel probe examining the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. He said he agreed to be nominated because Mr. Biden had promised that the Justice Department would make all decisions about investigations and prosecutions.

Michael Regan, seen in February with his son, was confirmed Wednesday as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.



Photo:

Caroline Brehman/Press Pool

“I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone. I expect the Justice Department will make its own decisions in this regard,” Mr. Garland said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Rep.

Marcia Fudge

(D., Ohio), as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, drawing the approval of Mr. McConnell and some other Republicans. Ms. Fudge resigned from her House seat before being sworn in later in the day. A special election for her Cleveland-area district will be held in the coming months.

In her confirmation hearing, Ms. Fudge, the first Black woman to head HUD since the Carter administration, said her first priority would be to assist Americans who are behind on their housing payments and “get people the support they need to come back from the edge.” She also said she would work on improving access to quality, affordable homes.

By the same margin of 66-34, the Senate also confirmed

Michael Regan

as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, making the 44-year-old the country’s top environmental regulator at a time when Mr. Biden has promised stringent new rules to address climate change. Despite that controversial agenda, Mr. Regan’s nomination drew the vocal support of Republican senators from his home state of North Carolina, helping clear a path for approval in the divided chamber.

Mr. Regan, who spent more than nine years at the EPA early in his career and most recently ran North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, is expected to implement Mr. Biden’s campaign promise for rules requiring power plants, oil and gas producers, and auto makers to drastically reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. At his hearing last month he said he would seek to collaborate with businesses and avoid overly burdensome regulation.

Write to Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

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Meghan Markle’s Oprah Interview Throws Uncomfortable Spotlight on Race in U.K.

LONDON—An interview by Prince Harry and

Meghan Markle,

in which the couple said a member of the royal family asked how dark their unborn child’s skin would be, has thrust the British monarchy into the center of an uncomfortable discussion over the role of race in British society.

In a two-hour interview with

Oprah Winfrey,

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, known by their titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said they experienced racism before and after they were married. The conversation stirred questions as to whether the British monarchy and the country they represent have done enough to tackle discrimination against Britons of color. It comes less than a year after Black Lives Matters protests divided British public opinion.

The Duchess of Sussex, who is biracial, said before the birth of her son Archie that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born” with a member of the royal family. Neither she nor Prince Harry identified the person.

Asked by Ms. Winfrey whether racism drove the couple to relocate from the U.K. to the U.S. last year, Prince Harry replied “it was a large part of it.”

Buckingham Palace didn’t comment on the interview.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spoke to Oprah Winfrey about their rift with Buckingham Palace. Markle said she had had suicidal thoughts, and the couple explained why they signed Netflix and Spotify deals after leaving royal-family duties. Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/Getty Images

A number of opposition Labour Party lawmakers called for a probe to be launched by the palace into the claims.

“It is bigger in a sense than just the royal family because that experience of racism, I am sad to say, is too prevalent still in 21st century Britain,” said Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party.

Prime Minister

Boris Johnson

declined to discuss whether the palace should launch any investigation and said he “always had the highest admiration for the Queen.”

The interview is a damaging denouement to what could have been one of the monarchy’s great modernizing acts, say analysts.

The entrance of Ms. Markle, an American actress and divorcee, into the House of Windsor in 2018 could have represented a new chapter in efforts by the monarchy to make it more accessible, a process that started in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. However, within two years the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were quitting as front-line royals and moving to North America. Last month they were stripped of all royal patronages and titles.

“The royal family really blew it on this one. It could have been a PR coup like no other,” said Gregory Claeys, a professor at the University of London. “For the country as a whole it is sending a message that is retrograde and xenophobic.”

The fallout is playing out against the background of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, which proved deeply divisive in the U.K. as it grappled over whether the country should apologize for its empire and role in the slave trade.

Several statues of prominent people linked to slavery were pulled down in British cities, but Mr. Johnson said statues shouldn’t be removed and Britain shouldn’t “edit or censor our past.”

Polls find that a majority of Britons don’t regard their country as racist—an Ipsos Mori poll last year showed that 89% of Britons would be happy for their child to marry someone from another ethnic group—but Black people in the U.K. feel they aren’t treated equally, according to surveys.

A report commissioned by the U.K. parliamentary human-rights committee in the wake of George Floyd’s death found that over 75% of Black Britons don’t believe their human rights are equally protected compared with white people.

Black people represented just 1.5% of managers and senior officials in the U.K., according to research last year by Business in the Community, a members group created by the Prince of Wales. Around 3% of the British population is Black. Sixty-five out of 650 members of Parliament are from ethnic minorities.

“In the U.S. there is history, the conversation is way further down the line” than in the U.K., said Kenny Imafidon, the managing director of ClearView Research, which conducted the polling on behalf of the parliamentary group. The fact that racism is less overt in Britain “can make people believe that those issues don’t exist.”

During his interview with Ms. Winfrey, Prince Harry said that he believed Britain wasn’t a bigoted country, but criticized the British press as such. “Unfortunately if the source of information is inherently corrupt…then that filters out into the rest of society,” he said.


‘In the U.S. there is history, the conversation is way further down the line’ than in the U.K.


— Kenny Imafidon, pollster

Soon after the couple started dating in 2016, Kensington Palace made a rare public statement on behalf of Prince Harry asking the press to leave Ms. Markle alone, citing “the racial undertones of comment pieces: the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.”

Rachel Johnson, who is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s sister, penned an article referring to Ms. Markle’s “exotic DNA.” The Daily Mail published an article with the headline “Harry’s Girl Is (almost) Straight Outta Compton.” Princess Michael of Kent, who is married to the queen’s cousin, was photographed wearing a blackamoor brooch, with the image of an African servant, to a Christmas lunch with the Queen and the Sussexes. She later apologized.

Members of the British monarchy have repeatedly condemned racism. Some royal watchers said the allegations were unlikely to harm the royal institution. “Behaving badly is perhaps too strong,” Judith Rowbotham, a constitutional expert said of the interview by Prince Harry and Ms. Markle. “They are behaving perhaps unfortunately…it is personal rather than institutional.”

The interview painted the palace as cold and uncaring, doing little to help the duchess settle into her new role or deal with her mental health problems. It also, unexpectedly, included criticisms of senior members of the British monarchy.

The Duchess of Sussex said that Prince William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, made her cry before their wedding over a disagreement about bridesmaid dresses. Prince Harry said that his father briefly stopped taking his calls when negotiating their split from the family and left him feeling “really let down.” Prince Harry added he was “on different paths” to his brother Prince William. The couple, however, took pains not to criticize Queen Elizabeth.

Last week, the palace announced an investigation into allegations that the Duchess of Sussex bullied aides while she worked there. The duchess denied the allegation.

It wasn’t clear whether the palace would launch a probe into the racism allegations. Some expressed concern at double standards. “Now that Meghan has revealed comments about her child’s skin color, will they investigate racism in the palace? I won’t be holding my breath,” said opposition Labour lawmaker

Nadia Whittome

in a tweet.

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com

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Biden Declares Texas Winter Storm a Major Disaster

President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state, creating a power and utility crisis.

The White House said the federal assistance would cover 77 counties and provide grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other recovery aid to individuals and business owners.

White House press secretary

Jen Psaki

told reporters Friday that the initial focus of the disaster aid would be for Texas counties most affected by the storms.

Access to safe drinking water remained a critical issue for millions in the state. But after a week of frigid temperatures that were linked to the deaths of at least 69 people, according to the Associated Press, weather conditions continued to improve in Texas on Saturday, with most of the state seeing highs in the 40s and 50s.

Cars lined up for water distribution in Houston on Saturday.



Photo:

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Power outages were also considerably better, with nearly 58,000 households and businesses still without electricity on Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, a site that tracks records and aggregates U.S. power outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s electricity grid, said Friday that operations had returned to normal, and it was no longer asking people to conserve energy.

Outages also continued to affect more than 225,000 households and businesses in Oregon, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, according to poweroutage.us.

In southwest Houston, soap and water were spraying across cars and trucks again Saturday at Deya Rojas’s carwash business after a weeklong shutdown. The winter freeze that swept across America’s fourth-largest city had caused a pipe to burst at Ms. Rojas’s VVS Car Wash & Detail, but her family couldn’t find any plumbers to fix it and nearby department stores had run out of PVC pipe. Ms. Rojas said a quick fix with a hose brought the carwash back to life.

Ms. Rojas, 24 years old, said she would consider applying for federal or state aid to cover around $7,000 in losses due to the closures, but she wasn’t sure what options were available.

“We’ve got to see what’s out there,” she said. “It’s our main income.”

After days without power or water, many Texans have said they felt abandoned by the government and confused that relief hadn’t arrived earlier. Some local officials said icy roads had hindered deliveries of supplies, and having the entire state in need of aid at the same time made it slower and more complicated to distribute than a disaster in a localized area.

Mr. Biden said Friday he was likely to travel to Texas next week to inspect the damage, but wanted to ensure that his presence wasn’t a burden on emergency responders.

He spoke on Friday with Bob Fenton, the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and said he was “ready to mobilize other federal agencies to bring additional support to the people of Texas and ensure that any critical needs are met,” the White House said.

A water-distribution center at a high school in Kyle, Texas, on Saturday.



Photo:

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As of Friday, FEMA had delivered 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets and 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals in Fort Worth. The federal agency also has provided emergency generators and fuel to help maintain critical infrastructure. FEMA sends supplies upon a state’s request.

Access to safe drinking water remained a problem Saturday for many after the outages, and frozen pipes caused problems in cities across Texas and the South.

Just under 1,300 public water systems in Texas reported weather-related disruptions, many of them leading to notices telling residents to boil all water used for drinking and cooking, said Gary Rasp, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The disruptions affected more than 14.3 million people in 190 Texas counties, Mr. Rasp said. About 64 boil-water notices had been rescinded.

Some cities issued explainers and more guidance on social media.

The city of Austin posted information to help residents better understand a citywide water outage and the reasons behind a boil-water advisory earlier in the week. The city explained that it needs a minimum of 100 million gallons in storage to help build pressure systemwide.

“Currently, we are a little more than halfway there and climbing,” the city said on Twitter.

“The state is making tremendous progress on resolving a lot of the water issues that existed 48 hours ago,” said Adam Wampler, president of the

Kroger

Dallas division, which includes 109 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, East Texas and northwest Louisiana.

On Thursday, power had been restored but 39 of the division’s 103 Texas locations were under a mandated water boil, Mr. Wampler said. That number dropped to 15 by Saturday morning. He said the pipes at about half of the division’s stores were also busted in the storm, but have since been fixed.

Kroger replenished scant supplies at stores by leveraging distribution from its warehouses all over the country, diverting trucks to Dallas and Houston. Mr. Wampler said the region became “absolutely the number one priority,” as the company sent “as many trucks as we could possibly receive” to its distribution center in Keller, Texas.

Write to Ken Thomas at ken.thomas@wsj.com and Lee Hawkins at lee.hawkins@wsj.com

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