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Sunday, July 25, 2021

‘We Have a Deal’: Biden Agrees to Bipartisan Infrastructure Compromise

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Biden Touts Agreement on Infrastructure Plan

President Biden on Thursday endorsed a bipartisan infrastructure deal which includes $ 579 billion in new investments for roads, broadband internet and electric utilities.

For me, investment in our physical and human infrastructure are inextricably intertwined, both make us better off and stronger. The case for these investments is clear. Economists left, right and center, independent Wall Street forecasters, they all say that these kinds of public investments mean more jobs, more workers participating in the labor force, higher productivity and higher growth for our economy over the long run. Both need to get done. We need physical physical infrastructure, but we also need the human infrastructure as well. They’re a part of my overall plan. What we agreed on today is what we could agree on: the physical infrastructure. There was no agreement on the rest. We’re going to have to do that through the budget process. And we need a fairer tax system to pay for it all. I’m not going to rest until all — both get to my desk. I know there are some of my party who discourage me from seeking the agreement with our Republican colleagues, who said that we should go bigger and go alone. To them, I say this, I’ve already shown in my young presidency that I’m prepared to do whatever needs to get done to move the country forward. That’s what I did with the American Rescue Plan, which was $ 1.9 trillion. Let me say this. When we can find common ground, though, working across party lines, that is what I will seek to do.

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President Biden on Thursday endorsed a bipartisan infrastructure deal which includes $ 579 billion in new investments for roads, broadband internet and electric utilities.CreditCredit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

President Biden struck an infrastructure deal on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators, signing on to their plan to provide about $ 579 billion in new investments in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other projects in hopes of moving a crucial piece of his economic agenda through Congress.

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“We have a deal,” Mr. Biden said outside the White House, standing beside a group of Republicans and Democrats after a meeting in the Oval Office where they outlined their proposal. “I think it’s really important we’ve all agreed that none of us got all that we wanted.”

Mr. Biden’s endorsement marked a breakthrough in his efforts to forge an infrastructure compromise, but it was far from a guarantee that the package would be enacted. Both the president and top Democrats say the plan, which constitutes a fraction of the $ 4 trillion economic proposal Mr. Biden has put forth, can only move together with a much larger package of spending and tax increases that Democrats are planning to try to push through Congress unilaterally, over the opposition of Republicans.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Mr. Biden said during remarks in the East Room of the White House. “It’s in tandem.”

Still, he signaled optimism about the success of the compromise, calling it a major win for his economic agenda, for America’s competitive stance against China and for democracy itself.

“This agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things,” he said, standing with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Mr. Biden noted that the deal includes about two-thirds of the funding that he had called for in several parts of his American Jobs Plan, in areas like clean power and environmental resilience. He also took on liberals in his party who had criticized the negotiations, casting the outcome as both a sign of what is still possible in an increasingly polarized Washington and a first step in a process that could also include a larger budget reconciliation bill that would likely pass with only Democratic votes.

“It’s hard,” Mr. Biden said of bipartisan compromise, “but it’s necessary, and it can get done.”

It’s not clear, though, that the bipartisan plan — a product of five Republicans and five Democrats — will muster the support of at least 60 senators to overcome any filibuster. And the two-track strategy promises to be a heavy lift for Democrats in a Congress where they have only the thinnest of majorities, and moderates and progressives have very different priorities.

Still, if it succeeds, the bipartisan plan would, for the first time since President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic rescue plan, pump significant federal investments into the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — not only roads, bridges, and transit, but broadband, waterways and coastlines eroding as the planet warms.

Under the plan, $ 312 billion would go to transportation projects, $ 65 billion to broadband and $ 55 billion to waterways. A large sum, $ 47 billion, is earmarked for “resilience” — a down payment on Mr. Biden’s promise to deal with the impact of climate change.

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $ 40 billion into Internal Revenue Service enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $ 100 billion. A separate infrastructure finance program would leverage $ 20 billion in federal money to produce $ 180 billion in private financing on infrastructure construction.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden and the centrist senators at the White House cheered their compromise. The president, who spent more than three decades in the Senate and has staked his success on his reputation as a dealmaker, said the agreement “reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress.”

“This does represent a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, who helped spearhead the talks that led to the agreement, said at the White House.

But it would leave large swaths of the president’s economic proposals — including much of his proposed spending to combat climate change, along with investments in child care, education and other social programs — for a potential future bill that Democrats would try to pass without any Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats signaled openness to accepting the initial details of the agreement, provided that their moderate colleagues accept a second, much larger reconciliation package.

“There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Thursday, repeating a comment she had made privately on a call with House Democratic leaders, according to two officials familiar with it.

President Biden says he supports an infrastructure deal reached by the bipartisan group of senators.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

President Biden celebrated on Thursday the stripped-down and rejiggered bipartisan rewrite of his infrastructure proposal, proclaiming in a White House news conference that it was a unifying accomplishment for the whole country.

Lawmakers have yet to release legislative language, but White House officials laid out the funding breakdown in a fact sheet that detailed proposed allocations for some of pillars of the plan, which would be phased in over eight years.

Here are some key highlights of the $ 579 billion framework — and some of the elements that didn’t make it through the negotiations.

  • $ 66 billion in rail projects and $ 49 billion for public transit. Mr. Biden, speaking to reporters, said Republicans had agreed to funding for many of his transportation proposals, albeit at reduced levels — and touted the inclusion of a $ 7.5 billion investment in charging stations for electric vehicles.

  • $ 109 billion in road and bridge projects. The framework includes an additional $ 25 million to upgrade airports and $ 16 billion for improvements at the nation’s cargo ports and waterways.

  • $ 201 billion in water, sewer, power and environmental remediation projects. The plan includes $ 55 billion for water infrastructure, $ 21 billion for environmental projects, and $ 73 billion for power grid improvements.

  • $ 65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Mr. Biden has said his goal is to provide “universal” broadband access, an initiative that is especially popular with Republican senators from states with large rural and exurban populations.

  • No new taxes on the wealthy or on corporations. Gone is the rollback of President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts or Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the rates paid by corporations, a core selling point of the plan for progressives. But gone too are the proposals by Republicans, including a gas tax, which Mr. Biden viewed as new taxation on the middle and working classes.

  • A $ 47 billion down payment on “resilience” projects to cope with climate change. The agreement includes billions slated for weatherproofing, upgrades to coastal infrastructure and projects intended to mitigate against severe weather.

  • Stepped-up tax collection by the I.R.S. The proposal is expected to include heightened enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion by corporations and high earners. One of the lawmakers who worked on the deal, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $ 40 billion into enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $ 100 billion.

  • No major funding for housing. Mr. Biden lamented that he was unable to secure commitments for big new investments in affordable housing, but said he would keep pushing.

  • Biden’s big “human infrastructure” plan is gone — at least from this measure. The bipartisan proposal appears to leave out much of the president’s initial $ 2 trillion blueprint — which included massive spending to combat climate change and subsidize child care, education and other types of “human infrastructure” spending. That could make it a hard sell for many progressives in the House, who could easily scuttle any plan if they choose to buck the White House. Democrats are pushing inclusion of many of those programs in a second piece of legislation that could be passed without Republican support using a fast-track legislative process called reconciliation. Mr. Biden said the bills should be passed “in tandem.” “If this is the only thing that comes to me,” he said about the bipartisan bill, “I’m not signing it.”

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Pelosi to Form Commission to Investigate Jan. 6 Capitol Assault

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would create a select committee to further investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. About 140 police officers were injured during the violent assault and seven people died in connection with the siege.

With great solemnity and sadness, I’m announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection. Again, Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. I’ve said it now three times. It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day, and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen. And that we root out the causes of it all. The select committee will investigate and report on the facts and the causes of the attack, and it will make report recommendations. So we see this as complementary, not instead of, and hopeful that there could be a commission at some point. As I said on the House floor when we passed the legislation on the commission, the Capitol of the United States has always been a glorious beacon of democracy for the American people, and the world, I say it again. The select committee is about our democracy and about ensuring that the Capitol dome remain a symbol of freedom, about preserving America’s role as an emblem of resilience, determination and hope.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would create a select committee to further investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. About 140 police officers were injured during the violent assault and seven people died in connection with the siege.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would create a select committee to further investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan effort to form an independent commission of experts to look into the riot.

“Jan. 6 was a day of darkness for our country,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters. “Our temple of democracy was attacked by insurrectionists.”

The move came after Ms. Pelosi had signaled for weeks that she planned to take such a step to scrutinize the storming of the Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump, who sought to disrupt Congress’s counting of electoral votes to formalize President Biden’s victory.

On Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi told top House Democrats that she planned to announce her decision on a select committee this week. She has maintained that her preference was for the Senate to approve a bipartisan commission, modeled after the one that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But with Republicans opposed and many G.O.P. lawmakers working to whitewash and downplay the riot, she has conceded that no longer seemed possible. Fewer than 10 Republicans — the amount needed to overcome a legislative filibuster — supported such an inquiry when it came to a vote in the Senate this month.

“It is imperative that we seek the truth,” Ms. Pelosi said on Thursday. “It is clear the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”

She said the committee would investigate the root causes of the attack, including white supremacist and extremist groups, and also Capitol security failures.

“Most of us had our hearts set on an independent bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 Commission,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of Ms. Pelosi’s leadership team, said. “We just ran into a brick wall of G.O.P. opposition. They apparently see no political mileage in undertaking any inquiry.”

Mr. Raskin, who led the impeachment case against Mr. Trump over a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 riot, said his team was “not able to follow many leads about the president’s organization and mobilization of different groups to participate in the events of that day” and he hoped the select committee could pick up that work.

“We need to learn about how that coalition of extremists came together and who facilitated it. to what extent it’s a threat to us in the future,” he said.

It was not immediately clear who would chair the committee or be included in its membership. Ms. Pelosi said she would make those announcements at a later date and said she hoped that Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, would name “responsible” people to participate.

Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday that his preference was to allow Senate committees that have already been looking into the attack to continue, rather than to create the new body that Ms. Pelosi was proposing.

“When it comes to what happened on Jan. 6, we want to get to the bottom of that; it’s disgusting what transpired that day,” Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the speaker has always played politics with this. Time and again. She’s never once talked to me about it.”

But Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, who was the No. 3 Republican before she was ousted from her leadership post over her criticism of Mr. Trump — endorsed the idea of moving forward with the committee.

“It’s really important for us to make sure we have a full investigation into what happened Jan. 6,” Ms. Cheney said.

About 140 police officers were injured during the most violent assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812. Seven people died in connection with the siege, including one officer who had multiple strokes after sparring with rioters.

A New York court said that Rudolph W. Giuliani’s actions had posed “an immediate threat” to the public and he would likely face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A New York appellate court suspended Rudolph W. Giuliani’s law license on Thursday after a disciplinary panel found that he made “demonstrably false and misleading” statements about the 2020 election as Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer.

The court wrote in a 33-page decision that Mr. Giuliani’s conduct threatened “the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law.”

Mr. Giuliani helped lead Mr. Trump’s legal challenge to the election results, arguing without merit that the vote had been rife with fraud and that voting machines had been rigged.

“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at re-election in 2020,” the decision read.

Mr. Giuliani now faces disciplinary proceedings and can fight the suspension. But the court said in its decision that Mr. Giuliani’s actions had posed “an immediate threat” to the public and that it was likely he would face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers, John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, said in a statement that they were disappointed that the panel took action before holding a hearing on the allegations.

“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” they said. “We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing, Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”

Vice President Kamala Harris arriving in Atlanta on Air Force Two last Friday.
Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Two top aides who oversee travel for Vice President Kamala Harris are departing, leaving the vice president with her critical support staff in flux as she seeks to ramp up travel ahead of big vaccine and voting rights pushes she is planning through July.

Karly Satkowiak, the director of advance, and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, the deputy director of advance, have both told the vice president’s office they plan to leave in the coming weeks, according to three sources familiar with their plans. A spokeswoman for Ms. Harris said the departures were long planned and that both women are currently engaged with finding their replacements.

Advance workers are an integral part of the vice president’s team, responsible for planning all of her trips. Ms. Satkowiak and Ms. DeFranceschi put together the teams that survey venues for Ms. Harris to visit, and negotiate with local officials to get the venues camera-ready.

The departures come as the administration has put out a broad call for “advance associates” to help Ms. Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, with a big push of vaccine-related travel in the summer months. The vice president’s office, according to a person familiar with its hiring, is currently short on travel support staff, and the call for advance associates came as the administration has also been planning Ms. Harris’s high-stakes trip to the southern border. That trip was announced Wednesday amid mounting pressure from conservatives and is scheduled days before former President Donald J. Trump also plans to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.

The Biden administration is trying to recruit advance associates — an unpaid position where travel expenses are paid for or reimbursed by the government — to help staff and manage the travel of Ms. Harris and her husband. They also asked anyone who previously served as an advance associate to “consider doing so again.”

“We aim to onboard a critical mass of talented logistical experts,” the administration said in an email sent widely to current and former Democratic employees.

Unlike President Biden, who has been surrounded by the same top aides for the majority of his political career, Ms. Harris entered the administration with many new employees. Many of those officials came in with an understanding that they would stay only on a short-term basis.

U.S. soldiers spoke with villagers through an interpreter in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in 2009. More than 18,000 Afghans who assisted the United States during the war have been trapped in bureaucratic limbo after applying for special immigrant visas.
Credit…David Guttenfelder/Associated Press

The Biden administration is preparing to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces to other countries in an effort to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, senior administration officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, the White House has come under heavy pressure from lawmakers and military officials to protect Afghan allies from revenge attacks by the Taliban and speed up the lengthy and complex process of providing them special immigrant visas.

On Wednesday, administration officials started notifying lawmakers that they will soon begin what could be a wholesale move of tens of thousands of Afghans. Officials said the Afghans would be moved out of Afghanistan to third countries to await the processing of their visa requests to move to the United States.

More than 18,000 Afghans who have worked as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, fixers and embassy clerks for the United States during the war have been trapped in a bureaucratic limbo after applying for special immigrant visas, available to people who face threats because of work for the U.S. government. Those applicants have 53,000 family members, officials said.

The officials declined to say where the Afghans would await the visa processing, and it is not clear whether third countries have agreed to take them. The opportunity to move will be given to people who have already begun the application process.

A senior administration official said that under the plan, transportation out of Afghanistan will not come with any assurance that a visa to the United States will be granted. It was unclear whether people who somehow do not qualify would be sent back to Afghanistan or left in a third country.

The officials spoke on grounds of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the decision.

The decision comes as President Biden prepares to meet on Friday with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan amid a worsening security situation in the country.

A Maricopa County constable posting an eviction order for non-payment of rent last October in Phoenix.
Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday approved a one-month extension of the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, as officials emphasized this will be the final time they will push back the deadline.

The moratorium, instituted by the agency last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic and extended earlier this year, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.

On Thursday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, signed the extension, which goes through July 31, after a week of internal debate at the White House over the issue.

Local officials and tenants rights groups have warned that phasing out the freeze could touch off a new, if somewhat less severe, eviction crisis than the country faced last year during the height of the pandemic.

White House officials agreed and pressed reluctant C.D.C. officials to extend the moratorium, which they see as needed to buy them more time to distribute $ 21.5 billion in emergency federal housing aid funded by a pandemic relief bill passed this spring.

Administration officials, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, unveiled a range of other actions intended to blunt the impact of lifting the moratorium and the lapsing of similar state and local measures.

Among the most significant is a new push by the Justice Department, led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, to coax local housing court judges to slow the pace of evictions by forcing landlords to accept federal money intended to pay back rent.

In a letter to state court officials, Ms. Gupta urged judges to adopt a general order requiring all landlords to prove they have applied for federal aid before signing off on evictions, while offering federal funding for eviction diversion programs intended to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.

Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $ 21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.

White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said recently that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in low-income communities.

Ms. Walensky was initially reluctant to sign the extension, according to a senior administration official involved in the negotiations. She eventually concluded, the official said, a flood of new evictions could lead to greater spread of the virus by displaced tenants.

Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Ms. Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume. “By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.

Groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.

“The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.

President Biden spoke about the need for vaccinating more Americans at the launch of a community canvassing event at a community center in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Eager for more Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, President Biden spoke at a vaccine canvassing event in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, while the first lady, Jill Biden, traveled to Florida to visit two vaccination sites, joined by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

The trips were part of a heightened “ground game” strategy that health officials hope will persuade those who have not yet gotten shots to do so.

Mass vaccination sites across the country have shuttered as the initial crowds eager to get vaccinated have receded, and the White House publicly acknowledged this week that the president did not expect to meet his self-imposed goal of 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated by July 4.

If the rate of adult vaccinations continues on the current seven-day average, the country will come in just shy of the president’s target, with about 67 percent of adults having at least one shot by July 4, according to a New York Times analysis.

“The data couldn’t be clearer, if you’re vaccinated you’re safe,” Mr. Biden said. “But you’re still at risk of getting seriously sick or dying if you’re not vaccinated.” He then warned of the rising danger of the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India.

In early April, Delta represented just 0.1 percent of cases in the United States, according to the C.D.C. By early May, the variant accounted for 1.3 percent of cases, and by early June, that figure had jumped to 9.5 percent. As of a few days ago, the estimate hit 20.6 percent, Dr. Fauci said at a news briefing Tuesday.

“The best way to protect yourself against this virus and these variants is to be fully vaccinated,” Mr. Biden said. Experts say the Delta variant is unlikely to pose much risk to people who have been fully vaccinated.

The White House has sent key members of the administration crisscrossing the country in the final weekend of a monthlong push to help drum up local support. Vice President Kamala Harris met virtually on Thursday with community groups working to persuade people to be inoculated. At a vaccination event in Kissimmee, Fla., on Thursday, Mrs. Biden held the hand of a woman getting her vaccine before encouraging others to follow suit.

“I’m a teacher and everything I do is evidence based,” she said. “But if you still have questions, and you may, that’s OK,” and suggested contacting a doctor.

The highly targeted push is akin to a get-out-the-vote effort with volunteers knocking on doors. It comes as the administration confronts a hard road ahead, where the unvaccinated are far more difficult to reach and potentially unwilling to change their minds.

How successful such appearances will be remains an open question. Dr. Fauci and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington went door-knocking last weekend in the nation’s capital, but they were still met with refusals from some residents.

On Thursday afternoon, as Dr. Biden arrived in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Osceola Community Health Services for a drive-through vaccination event, her motorcade passed by a protester who held up anti-vaccination signs at the entrance. Inside, a line of cars crawled through the parking lot to the mobile clinic, where the first lady and Dr. Fauci greeted health care workers and those who were waiting for shots.

“See how easy that was?” Dr. Biden said after a driver received a jab and vaccine card.

Lazaro Gamio contributed reporting.

Demonstrators gathered this month in Minnesota for a traditional Indigenous water ceremony during a protest against the Line 3 project.
Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Biden administration has defended a contentious pipeline project that would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through Minnesota’s delicate watersheds, urging in a court brief that a challenge brought by local tribes and environmental groups be thrown out.

The closely watched filing in federal court was the latest in a series of actions taken by the administration to back Trump-era approvals of oil and gas infrastructure, despite President Biden’s pledge to aggressively cut emissions from fossil fuels, a major driver of climate change. The pipeline, which is known as Line 3 and is being built by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy, has been the focus of mass protests in recent weeks.

Mr. Biden could still decide to withdraw the federal permits that the pipeline depends upon for construction to proceed. But for now, the administration is defending a decision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to issue those permits. That decision was made in the closing days of the Trump Administration.

The clash between Mr. Biden’s pledges on climate change and his recent decisions has disappointed those who had hoped that the United States would finally start taking aggressive steps to ward off the worst effects of global warming. It also illustrates the difficulties of weaning the country off the oil and gas that has long powered its economy.

Indigenous groups have also been trying to flex newfound political clout. Native Americans, like the secretary of the interior, Deb Haaland, now hold important positions within the Biden administration and have said they intend to hold Mr. Biden to his campaign promises on racial equity, particularly for tribal communities.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Biden Administration continues the Trump Administration’s policy of ignoring tribal rights, environmental justice, and climate concerns in favor of fossil fuel industry profits,” Moneen Nasmith of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, one of the lawyers on the case, said in an email.

The Enbridge project, which received its final approvals under President Donald J. Trump, is a 340-mile rerouting in a wider pipeline network. Once completed, it would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta across northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin to the tip of Lake Superior.

It would replace an older crude oil pipeline, built in the 1960s, that has had problems with corrosion, leaks and spills, forcing Enbridge in 2008 to reduce its capacity by half. In 2015, Enbridge cited corroding pipes and future oil demand to say it would reroute Line 3, a move that would allow it to restore its original capacity.

Shade Lewis, on his farm in La Grange, Mo., in May, said he spent years struggling financially and searching for credit as he built his cattle herd.
Credit…Neeta Satam for The New York Times

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from making loan forgiveness payments to minority farmers as part of a $ 4 billion program intended to address a long history of racial injustice in American farming.

The judge, Marcia Morales Howard of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Jacksonville, found that Scott Wynn, a white farmer in Jennings, Fla., who had challenged the program in a lawsuit in May, was likely to succeed on his claim that the program violates his right to equal protection under the law.

Known as Section 1005, the program was created as part of the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed in March. It was intended to provide debt relief to “socially disadvantaged farmers” — defined by the government as those who are Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander.

“Section 1005’s rigid, categorical, race-based qualification for relief is the antithesis of flexibility,” Judge Howard, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote. “The debt relief provision applies strictly on racial grounds irrespective of any other factor.”

In defending the program, the Biden administration had said that the government had a compelling interest in remedying a well-documented history of discrimination against minority farmers in Department of Agriculture loan and other programs and in preventing public funds from being allocated in a way that perpetuates the effects of discrimination.

Nonwhite farmers have long endured discrimination, from violence and land theft in the Jim Crow South to banks and federal farm offices that refused them loans or government benefits that went to white farmers.

“It is undeniable — and notably uncontested by the parties — that U.S.D.A. had a dark history of past discrimination against minority farmers,” Judge Howard wrote.

But she agreed with Mr. Wynn who, echoing the sentiments of other white farmers, had argued that the program discriminated against white farmers and ranchers because of their race.

Socially disadvantaged farmers” may qualify for 120 percent debt relief under the program, regardless of the size of their farms and even if they are “having the most profitable year ever and not remotely in danger of foreclosure,” Judge Howard wrote.

She ordered Mr. Wynn and the Agriculture Department to submit by June 29 an expedited schedule to resolve the case. She also said that the Biden administration could continue to prepare to provide relief under the program “in the event it is ultimately found to be constitutionally permissible.”

The Agriculture Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.

John Boyd Jr., the president of the National Black Farmers Association, expressed disappointment that the payments had not been made before the ruling was issued.

Some congressional Democrats are softening their resistance to voter identification laws as part of an effort to move forward on legislation to protect voting rights.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Congressional Democrats, searching for any way forward on legislation to protect voting rights, find themselves softening their once-firm opposition to a form of restriction on the franchise that they had long warned would be Exhibit A for voter suppression: voter identification laws.

Any path to passing the far-reaching Democratic elections legislation that Republicans blocked with a filibuster on Tuesday will almost certainly have to include a compromise on the bill’s near-blanket ban on state laws that require voters to present photo identification before they can cast a ballot.

Such laws were first cropping up decades ago, and Democrats fought them tooth and nail, insisting that they would be an impossible barrier to scale for the nation’s most vulnerable voters, especially older people and people of color.

But in recent years, the concept of voter identification has become broadly popular. The idea that voters bring some form of ID to the polls has been accepted by Democrats ranging from Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia on the center-right to Stacey Abrams of Georgia, a hero of the left.

“As I have always said, a person should have to confirm that they are who they are in order to vote,” Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia and a key ally of Ms. Abrams, said in an interview. “What I get concerned about is when you say gun licenses are OK, when a student ID is not. Then I think any reasonable person has to ask, ‘Well, what’s that game?’”

Compared with newer state laws that restrict early voting and mail-in voting, limit ballot drop boxes and allow partisan elected officials to take on a greater role overseeing elections, voter identification suddenly seems like an expendable bargaining chip for some Democrats.

“I have been fighting voter ID since 1990 when I was in the State Legislature,” said Representative Gwen Moore, a Black Democrat from Wisconsin, where Republicans adopted an ID law a decade ago that Democrats said would devastate universal access to the ballot box.

“I don’t know that it’s less important,” Ms. Moore said, “but given the gravity of all the other things that they want to do, like shutting down polling sites, in the hierarchy of needs, I really believe we give them their old No. 1 thing.”

A voting rights protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

For Democrats, the only way to break their voting rights legislation free of Republican opposition is by changing the Senate’s filibuster rules — an institution-shaking step that so far remains out of reach. But while the filibuster is proving hard to kill, it has been wounded.

The unanimous Republican refusal to allow the Senate to open a debate sought by every Democrat on the expansive elections and ethics measure — coupled with the recent filibuster of other legislation with bipartisan support — has armed opponents with fresh evidence of how the tactic can be employed to give the minority veto power over the majority.

Democrats and activists say the increasing Republican reliance on the filibuster will only intensify calls to jettison it and potentially bring about critical mass for a rules change as Democrats remain determined to pass some form of the elections measure and other parts of their agenda opposed by Republicans.

The White House, which has been criticized for not engaging aggressively enough on voting rights, is promising more from President Biden on the issue next week, though Mr. Biden, a senator for 36 years, has not explicitly endorsed eliminating the filibuster.

But to curb the power of the filibuster through a rules change, all 50 Democrats would have to agree to do so on the floor, and so far Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed strong public opposition to doing that. Ms. Sinema’s latest pronouncement came in a Washington Post op-ed published just before this week’s procedural vote, much to the frustration of some of her colleagues.

Other Democrats also remain reluctant to make significant changes to the filibuster, though they are much less outspoken than their two colleagues. One of them, Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who votes with Democrats and has previously voiced openness to changing the filibuster rule, said Wednesday that doing so still felt premature.

“I don’t think we are done trying to find a solution,” Mr. King said, referring to long-shot attempts to lure Republicans to support a compromise on voting legislation. “We need to give them another chance to see how they feel about democracy.”

India B. Walton, 38, has never held political office but upset the four-term mayor of Buffalo in the Democratic primary.
Credit…Libby March for The New York Times

A self-described democratic socialist, India B. Walton, 38, has never held political office. She was challenging Mayor Byron Brown, 62, who was seeking a fifth term, had served as chair of the state Democratic Party and once was mentioned as a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Few people thought Ms. Walton could win, and her opponent mostly tried to ignore her campaign. But on Tuesday, she defeated Mr. Brown in the city’s Democratic primary, making it almost certain that she will become not only the first woman elected mayor in New York State’s second-largest city, but also the first socialist at the helm of a large American city in decades.

“I don’t think reality has completely sunk in yet,” said Ms. Walton, who is a registered nurse and community activist, in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’m India from down the way, little poor Black girl who, statistically speaking, shouldn’t have amounted to much, yet here I am.”

Her upset on Wednesday shocked Buffalo and the nation’s Democratic establishment as most of the political world was more intensely focused on the initial results of the still-undecided mayoral primary in New York City. Ms. Walton’s win underscored the energy of the party’s left wing as yet another longtime incumbent in the state fell to a progressive challenger, echoing the congressional wins of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman.

While rare, socialist mayors are not unheard-of: Bernie Sanders took office in 1981 as mayor of Burlington, Vt., a city one-sixth the size of Buffalo, nearly a decade before being elected to Congress. But the last time a socialist was the mayor of a large American city was 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor.

Ms. Walton ran an unabashedly progressive campaign in a Democratic city of about 250,000 people — about 37 percent of them Black — that had elected mostly white men as mayors for nearly two centuries. (Mr. Brown became the city’s first Black mayor in 2006.) Her own life has been defined by hardship: a teenage single mother at the age of 14, a high school dropout, resident of a group home and a victim of domestic violence.

“This is proof that Black women and women belong everywhere in positions of power and positions of leadership,” Ms. Walton said, “and I’m just super-excited.”

Author: The New York Times
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

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