House Democrats Work to Quell Divisions and Pass a Budget Blueprint
Daily Political Briefing
Aug. 23, 2021Updated Aug. 23, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ETAug. 23, 2021, 6:32 p.m. ETA North Carolina court panel expands voting rights for parolees and people on probation.A Covid outbreak delays a draft report on Arizona Republicans’ widely criticized election review.The F.D.A. grants full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.Biden faces growing pressure to extend the withdrawal deadline of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.Kamala Harris stresses Southeast Asia ties on an overseas trip, but the focus returns to Afghanistan.For voting protections, it may be Democrats vs. the Roberts court.
Democratic leaders hope to pass a rule on Monday night for debating the budget measure, the infrastructure bill and an unrelated voting rights bill.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
House Democratic leaders worked feverishly on Monday to secure the votes needed to approve their $3.5 trillion budget blueprint this week, facing an internal revolt from moderates who have vowed to block the measure until a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure is passed.
Approval of the budget plan would be a critical step for President Biden’s agenda, paving the way for the Democratic-led Congress to push through an ambitious expansion of the nation’s social safety net this fall over Republican opposition. But several conservative-leaning Democrats have refused to move forward with it before the infrastructure package clears Congress.
And many progressives have said they will not support the infrastructure measure until the broader budget plan — expected to include universal preschool, paid family leave, federal support for child care and elder care, an expansion of Medicare, a broad effort to tackle climate change, and tax increases for wealthy people and corporations — is passed.
Hoping to find their way out of the political squeeze, Democratic leaders planned a test vote on Monday night that seeks to tie both priorities together with another top goal for the party. It would allow the House to take up the budget measure, the infrastructure bill and an unrelated voting rights bill.
That would set up a final vote on the budget and the voting measure as early as Tuesday. Democratic leaders plan to postpone consideration of the infrastructure bill for several weeks.
Cabinet secretaries and some high-ranking White House officials spent Monday calling holdout Democrats, urging them to support the move and stressing that Mr. Biden was firmly behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy to push the bipartisan bill and the budget blueprint in tandem.
“He supports Speaker Pelosi’s path forward to get the process done,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a briefing Monday afternoon. She also noted that the vote was simply a “procedural vote” and that there were “a number of different ways forward here,” calling the current intraparty debate “a healthy one.”
But in a sign of the precariousness of that plan, Ms. Pelosi scheduled a late-afternoon caucus meeting ahead of Monday’s vote as she and other leaders worked to corral support for the measure in the House, where they can afford to lose only three votes if Republicans, as expected, unanimously oppose it.
Nine moderate or conservative Democrats have said they will not back down from their insistence that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, passed by the Senate this month, move first.
“You don’t hold up a major priority of the country, and millions of jobs, as some form of leverage,” the Democrats wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece published on Sunday evening. “The infrastructure bill is not a political football.”
The group includes Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia; Ed Case of Hawaii; Jared Golden of Maine; Kurt Schrader of Oregon; Jim Costa of California; and Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela, all from Texas.
On Monday, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key Democratic moderate who helped craft the $1 trillion bipartisan package, released a statement urging the House to follow the Senate in first passing the infrastructure package and then the budget resolution.
“This is not about party or politics, it’s about doing what is right for the country,” he said. “It would send a terrible message to the American people if this bipartisan bill is held hostage.”
But Ms. Pelosi and dozens of progressive Democrats are equally adamant that the infrastructure vote will happen only after the Senate approves the budget package.
Administration officials who have made calls to the nine Democrats in recent days include Martin Walsh, the labor secretary; Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary; Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary; Shalanda Young, the acting head of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; and Brian Deese, who heads the National Economic Council.
Ms. Pelosi and her top deputies, backed by dozens of progressive lawmakers, remain adamant that the infrastructure vote will happen only after the Senate approves the budget package. In an onslaught of “Dear Colleague” missives over the last week, senior Democrats framed a vote in support of the budget blueprint as a chance to shape key legislation and ensure passage of key priorities.
“Ensuring a bicameral reconciliation process, with true input from the House prior to the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, is essential to advancing critical Democratic priorities on infrastructure and so much more,” wrote Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a critic of the bipartisan deal.
Progressive groups have also begun airing ads targeting the nine Democrats as obstructing the Biden administration’s agenda, in apparent response to No Labels, a bipartisan political organization, crowning the group “the unbreakable nine” in a dramatic montage.
Annie Karni contributed reporting.
A North Carolina judge ordered the State Board of Elections to begin registering 56,000 people — disproportionately black — who had been barred from voting because they were on parole or under supervised release.Credit…Juan Diego Reyes for The New York Times
North Carolina must immediately allow felons who are on parole, probation or supervised release to register to vote, a three-judge panel in a state court said Monday.
The 2-1 ruling, in a state Superior Court in Raleigh, restores voting rights to a disproportionately Black group of roughly 56,000 people who are out of prison but are under some sort of supervision. Black North Carolinians make up 21 percent of the state’s population, but 42 percent of those on parole or supervised release.
The judges said they would issue a formal ruling explaining their decision later. Both the Republican-controlled State General Assembly and the State Board of Elections, which had defended the law in court, said they would await the court’s written opinion before deciding whether to appeal the decision.
The North Carolina State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., the Protect Democracy Project and Forward Justice, a group pressing for equal treatment of minorities in Southern justice systems, had sued to overturn the law with three local groups that work with former felons.
The ruling “delivers on a promise of justice by the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. a half century ago, that all people living in communities across the state deserve to have their voices heard in elections,” said Stanton Jones of the law firm Arnold & Porter, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. “And now, 50 years later, the voices of those 56,000 people will finally be heard.”
But State Senator Warren Daniel, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s elections committee, said the judges were ignoring a clause in the State Constitution that bars convicted felons from voting unless their rights are restored according to state law. “These judges may think they’re doing the right thing by rewriting laws as they see fit (without bothering to even explain their ruling),” he said in a statement. “But each one of these power grabs chips away at the notion that the people, through their legislature, make laws.”
The decision followed a trial that bared the history of the state’s disenfranchisement of Black people in sometimes shocking detail.
The law struck down on Monday, which was enacted in 1877, extended disenfranchisement to people convicted of felonies in response to the 15th Amendment, which enshrined Black voting rights in the Constitution. But in the decade before that, local judges had reacted to the Civil War’s freeing of Black people by convicting them en masse and delivering public whippings, bringing them under a law denying the vote to anyone convicted of a crime for which whipping was a penalty.
A handful of Black legislators in the General Assembly tried to rescind the 1877 law in the early 1970s, but secured only procedural changes, such as a limit on the discretion of judges to prolong probation or court supervision.
In court arguments, neither side disputed the racist origins of the law. But lawyers for the General Assembly and the elections board argued that changes in the early 1970s removed that racist taint, even if the consequences — depriving former felons of voting rights — had not changed.
Mr. Daniel also argued on Monday that the procedural changes approved in the 1970s laid down the legal route for former felons — who had completed their prison sentence and were no longer under any form of supervision — to regain voting rights, and that the court had no power to change it.
The plaintiffs said the law violated parts of the State Constitution guaranteeing the state’s citizens substantially equal voting power and declaring that “all elections shall be free.” Both clauses should apply to all felons who had completed their sentences regardless of their race, they argued. But the law’s obvious discriminatory impact on Black people, they said, was reason enough for it to be struck down.
The ruling on Monday was not entirely unexpected. The same three-judge panel had temporarily blocked enforcement of part of the law before the November general election, stating that most people who had completed their prison sentences could not be barred from voting if their only reason for their continued supervision was that they owed fines or court fees. The judges said that was an unconstitutional poll tax.
Doug Logan, left, the chief executive of the Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, in Phoenix in April.Credit…Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
A draft report on a much-ridiculed review of the 2020 election results in Arizona’s largest county has been delayed by a Covid-19 outbreak on the team preparing the analysis, the Republican president of the Arizona State Senate said on Monday.
The president, Senator Karen Fann, said in a statement that three people on the five-member team were “quite sick,” including Doug Logan, the chief executive of the Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, that is in charge of the review.
A portion of the draft was still set to be delivered to Ms. Fann on Monday, but the remainder will await the recovery of the three team members. Lawyers for the State Senate will begin reviewing the partial draft on Wednesday, Ms. Fann said, and more meetings will be required before the findings of the review are made public.
The statement offered no hint of the contents of the partial draft. Mr. Logan and others involved in the review have previously claimed to have found irregularities in the official results of the November balloting, only to see those allegations debunked by election officials.
Mr. Logan’s company began reviewing 2.1 million ballots and election equipment from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, in April on orders of the Republican majority in the State Senate. Ms. Fann has said that the review was conducted to address claims of voter fraud by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, though no evidence of widespread fraud exists. She has also said that President Biden’s narrow victories in both the county and the state would remain official regardless of the findings.
Ms. Fann and other supporters of the review have argued that it was thorough and nonpartisan. But a range of election experts and the Republican-led leadership of Maricopa County have denounced the exercise from the beginning, citing haphazard rules for handling and counting ballots as well as lax security.
Supporters’ claims of an impartial review have been broadly dismissed. Mr. Logan spread conspiracy theories of a rigged election in Arizona on Twitter last year; his firm recruited volunteer workers for the review through Republican organizations; and virtually the entire cost of the exercise has been shouldered by conservative groups supporting Mr. Trump.
On Monday, Ms. Fann said the draft report had been further delayed because images of mail-ballot envelopes that had been demanded from Maricopa County election officials were delivered only on Thursday. A final report will be released, she said, only after a final meeting “to continue checking for accuracy, clarity and proof of documentation of findings.”
Biden Praises Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Approval
President Biden lauded the final approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration and implored unvaccinated Americans not to wait any longer to be inoculated.
After a strict process, the F.D.A. has reaffirmed its findings that the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and the F.D.A. has given its full and final approval. So let me say this loudly and clearly: If you have, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot when it’s — until it has full and final approval of the F.D.A., it has now happened. The moment you’ve been waiting for is here. It’s time for you to go get your vaccination, and get it today — today. It’s an important moment in our fight against the pandemic. Remember when we were trying to get? 70 percent of the people over 18, at least one shot? Well, we’ve not only gotten that done, we’ve gotten 71 percent of everyone aged 12 and older their first shot. And that’s over 200 million Americans. And over 170 million are now fully vaccinated. Third, states that have been lagging are seeing their vaccination rates grow faster. In fact, in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, more people got new vaccinations in the past month than in the prior two months combined. The progress we’re making on vaccinations now is going to produce results in the weeks ahead.
President Biden lauded the final approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration and implored unvaccinated Americans not to wait any longer to be inoculated.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, making it the first to move beyond emergency-use status in the United States.
The decision will set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges, corporations and other organizations. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will be sending guidelines to the country’s 1.4 million active-duty service members mandating that they be vaccinated, the Pentagon announced on Monday.
United Airlines recently announced that its employees will be required to show proof of vaccination within five weeks of regulatory approval.
Oregon has adopted a similar requirement for all state workers, as have a host of universities in states from Louisiana to Minnesota. In New York, the F.D.A.’s approval also brought into force a requirement announced in May that all students attending in-person classes at State University of New York and City University of New York schools be vaccinated.
The approval comes as the nation’s fight against the pandemic has intensified again, with the highly infectious Delta variant dramatically slowing the progress that the country had made over the first half of the year. In a nine-minute speech Monday afternoon, President Biden he said he hopes the development will motivate many of the roughly 85 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible for shots to get them. He told corporate, state and local leaders: “Do what I did last month. Require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements” such as frequent testing.
He cast Pfizer’s approval as a sign of the overall progress he said his administration is making against the pandemic. While he acknowledged that the death rate, now averaging about 1,000 new deaths a day, has been climbing, he said the toll is still far lower what it was last winter because the vast majority of elderly people are vaccinated.
Mr. Biden also tried to reassure anxious parents about the growing numbers of children who are getting infected with the Delta variant, saying that severe Covid cases among children are still “very, very rare.” He promised to soon address “how we get our kids back to school safely.”
“While millions of people have already safely received Covid-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the F.D.A. approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”
Pfizer said it presented the F.D.A. with data from 44,000 clinical trial participants in United States, the European Union, Turkey, South Africa and South America. The agency said the data showed the vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing Covid disease. That was a slight drop from the 95 percent efficacy rate that the data showed when the F.D.A. decided to authorize the vaccine for emergency use in December. Pfizer said the decrease reflected the fact that researchers had more time to catch people who became infected.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking public attitudes during the pandemic, found that three of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get vaccinated with a shot that had been fully approved.
But the pollsters and other experts warned that percentage could be exaggerated. “I think that is a vanishingly small number of people in real life,” said Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on vaccine hesitancy.
More important, Dr. Buttenheim said, would be the effect of requirements. “Mandates simplify things for people,” she said.
The regulatory action gives doctors a measure of leeway to prescribe a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine to patients, but federal officials strongly discouraged people from seeking extra shots until regulators decide they are safe and effective. Pending regulatory clearance, the federal government plans to start offering booster shots for adults next month.
The vaccine will continue to be authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15 while Pfizer collects the necessary data required for full approval. A decision on whether to authorize the vaccine for children younger than 12 could be at least several months away, and Dr. Woodcock said no such children should be given any Covid-19 vaccine at this point because regulators have not collected enough data yet from clinical trials on safety or the proper dosage.
So far, more than 92 million Americans — 54 percent of those fully inoculated — have gotten Pfizer shots. Most of the rest received Moderna’s vaccine.
Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A.’s top vaccine regulator, said that the Pfizer vaccine’s licensure followed a rigorous review of hundreds of thousands of pages of data and included inspections of the factories where the vaccine is produced. The agency, which has been under pressure to work ever faster on vaccine decisions, finished its review 97 days after Pfizer filed the required data — or in about two-fifths the normal time for such an evaluation, he said.
“The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S.,” he said.
Dr. Marks said that federal health agencies would continue to monitor the vaccine’s safety and that the F.D.A. would require Pfizer to continue to study the risks of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart, including the long-term outcomes for recipients. The F.D.A. in June attached warnings to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines noting possible increased risk of those conditions after the second dose.
Although Pfizer is now free to market the drug under the name Comirnaty, the company said only the federal government will distribute doses in the United States.
Health experts and state officials welcomed the development. With the Delta variant driving up caseloads across the country, “full approval could not come at a more important time,” said Dr. Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He called on schools and businesses to require vaccination before allowing people to congregate indoors.
Less than two months after it appeared to have curbed the spread of the virus, United States is now averaging around 150,000 new cases a day and more than 90,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
Vaccination rates have also rising in recent weeks, likely in part because of rising fears about the virus. Providers were administering about 837,000 shots a day. Mr. Biden said the most recent seven-day total was the highest since early July. He said more people in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi — all states that are being ravaged by the Delta variant — got their first shots in the past month than in the previous two months combined.
Some experts have estimated that full approval might convince just five percent of those who are unvaccinated to get shots. Even if that’s so, “that’s still a huge slice of people,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the chief health officer for Mississippi. He said licensure will help “shake loose this false assertion that the vaccines are an ‘experimental’ thing.”
Dr. Marks, the vaccine regulator, cited a series of other myths about the vaccines as a major impediment to fighting the pandemic, including false claims that the shots would cause infertility, foster rather than prevent Covid disease or had led to thousands of deaths. “Let me be clear. These claims are simply not true,” he said.
The F.D.A. is in the midst of a decision-making marathon related to coronavirus vaccines. The next major one looming for regulators is whether or not to authorize booster shots. The Biden administration said last week it plans to offer third shots to adults who got the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines eight months after their second injection, starting Sept. 20. Third shots are already authorized for some people with immune deficiencies, but the risk-benefit calculus is different for the general population.
Federal health officials said that both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines, which rely on similar technology, wane in potency over time. That trend, they said, is converging with the rise of the particularly dangerous Delta variant, making those who completed their vaccinations at the start of the year increasingly vulnerable to infection.
Some health experts have challenged the decision to recommend booster shots as premature, saying the data shows that the vaccines are holding up well against severe disease and hospitalization, including against the Delta variant. Boosters would only be warranted if the vaccines were failing to prevent hospitalizations with Covid-19, some of those experts have said.
Regulators are still reviewing Moderna’s application for full approval of its vaccine. That decision could take several weeks. Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply soon for full approval.
Helene Cooper contributed reporting.
An earlier version of this item misstated the name of the organization led by Dr. Richard Besser. It is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, not the Robert Wood Foundation.
An earlier version of this item misstated the name that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is now free to be marketed under. It is Comirnaty, not Comiraty.
Pentagon to Require Vaccinations for Active-Duty Troops
Following the Food and Drug Administration’s final approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, Pentagon officials said they were working on a timeline for requiring vaccinations for all active-duty service members.
The F.D.A. approved full licensure of the Pfizer vaccine this morning and has also, I’m sure you’re aware, back in August on the 9th, the secretary articulated that it was his intent to mandate Covid-19 vaccines upon F.D.A. licensure or by mid-September to seek a waiver from the president. So now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be vaccinated. A timeline for vaccination completion will be provided in the coming days. The health of the force is, as always, of our military and our civilian employees, families and communities is a top priority, and so it is important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live. We’re preparing now actionable guidance to the force we’re going to move forward making that vaccine mandatory. We’re preparing the guidance to the force right now, and that the actual completion date of it, in other words, how fast we want to see it get done, we’re working through that guidance right now.
Following the Food and Drug Administration’s final approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, Pentagon officials said they were working on a timeline for requiring vaccinations for all active-duty service members.CreditCredit…Carl Court/Getty Images
Full federal approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for those 16 and older is opening the way for institutions like the military, corporate employers, hospitals and school districts to announce vaccine mandates for their employees.
National medical groups hailed the step. A joint statement by the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association called it “a major step forward in the worldwide effort to end this pandemic.”
“Today’s news marks a critical moment for people who were concerned about getting vaccinated due to the vaccines being authorized for emergency use,” the statement said. “With millions of data points on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy over nearly nine months of vaccinations, every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed.”
The groups added, “With the Delta variant surging, there has never been a better time to get vaccinated.”
One of the first and largest to move ahead was the Pentagon, which announced on Monday that it was moving ahead with plans to require all active-duty troops to be vaccinated. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will soon send specific vaccination guidelines to the country’s 1.4 million active-duty service members, the Pentagon said.
Mr. Austin had already received authorization from President Biden to mandate vaccines for troops once the vaccine was fully approved, and he is moving swiftly to put the plans into action, said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
“These efforts ensure the safety of our service members,” Mr. Kirby said during a news briefing on Monday. He said the deadline date for getting vaccinated was still being determined.
The move is intended to harden the country’s defenses against the highly contagious Delta variant, which has driven new cases and hospitalizations up across the country, especially in areas with low rates of vaccination, where many military bases are situated.
Mr. Biden announced last month that all federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or else submit to regular testing and other measures. The requirement applied to the 766,372 civilians working for the Defense Department, but not active-duty service members.
Mr. Austin has previously said that he would not be comfortable imposing a mandate before vaccines were fully approved by the F.D.A. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that there was an undercurrent of resistance to the vaccine in the armed forces.
The Defense Department’s website said that as of Aug. 18, more than one million service members have been vaccinated, along with more than 300,000 civilian employees.
Vaccine mandates for college students may also gather pace.
The F.D.A.’s approval brought into force a requirement in New York, announced in May, that all in-person students at State University of New York and City University of New York schools be vaccinated. CUNY’s website said that after federal approval students “have 45 days to get fully vaccinated or will be subject to potential academic withdrawal.”
The University of Minnesota System, with five campuses and 60,000 students, announced on Monday that the coronavirus vaccine would be added to the university’s list of mandatory immunizations. And the president of Louisiana State University told reporters that his school would also require vaccination. Each institution had previously said it would do so once the F.D.A. gave a coronavirus vaccine final approval.
The drugstore chain CVS said on Monday that its pharmacists would have to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30 and that all corporate employees and other workers who interact with patients had until Oct. 31 to comply. The requirement affects about 100,000 employees, the company said. Workers may request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, a union that represents around 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking and other fields, praised the approval as a way to convince hesitant people to get vaccinated but warned against mandates that did not take employees’ concerns into consideration.
New York City announced on Monday that every employee of the city’s Department of Education, from principals to janitors, would have to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. Hours later, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced that all state employees and employees of public, private and parochial schools in his state must be fully inoculated by Oct. 18 or be tested once or twice a week for the virus. And Chevron became the first major American oil producer to require its field workers to get vaccinated.
Before the F.D.A.’s announcement, the three coronavirus vaccines available in the United States, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, were all being administered in the United States under an emergency use authorization. (The Pfizer vaccine remains available on that basis for youths 12 to 15 and for extra doses for some immunocompromised people.)
The F.D.A.’s approval action on Monday could reinforce the legal standing of some mandates and pave the way for some organizations to impose stricter requirements and no longer allow employees the option of frequent testing as an alternative to getting vaccinated.
Officials also hope that full federal approval will quiet some of the vaccine misinformation online and induce more hesitant people to get vaccinated. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three out of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get a shot once it was fully approved.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter on Monday that he thought full approval of the vaccine would make a difference, “mostly by providing confidence to businesses, schools, and yes, our military to mandate vaccines. And it is already starting to happen.”
Stephanie Saul, Eliza Shapiro, Tracey Tully and Coral del Mar Murphy-Marcos contributed reporting.
President Biden took questions on Sunday after delivering remarks on Hurricane Henri and the situation in Afghanistan.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
As the evacuation from Afghanistan plunged more deeply into chaos and violence, President Biden is considering extending the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw, amid a groundswell of pressure from global leaders and veterans concerned that a security vacuum could risk lethal consequences.
Violent clashes at Kabul’s airport on Monday reinforced fears that the American withdrawal will aggravate the already precarious security situation. In recent days, the United States has scrambled to control the mayhem at the airport as thousands of Afghans try desperately to flee the Taliban, with surging crowds turning deadly. Britain’s Defense Ministry, which has troops at the airport, said on Sunday that seven Afghan civilians had died in the crowds, where people have been trampled to death, including a toddler.
Mr. Biden said on Sunday that his administration might extend his Aug. 31 deadline, and he pledged that all evacuated Afghan allies would be given a home in the United States after they are screened and vetted at bases in other countries.
American officials had estimated on Tuesday that 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens were in Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. William Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said on Saturday that about 2,500 Americans had been evacuated since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban took Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore held a news conference on Monday.Credit…Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein
Facing rising pressure over the United States’ haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, Vice President Kamala Harris said on Monday that the Biden administration was “singularly focused” on evacuating American citizens and Afghan allies.
Ms. Harris’s comments, at a news conference in Singapore, came at the start of a weeklong trip to Southeast Asia that is aimed at strengthening economic ties and countering China’s growing sway in the region.
Instead, her joint news conference with Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, was dominated by questions about the chaotic execution of the withdrawal, which has prompted criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and leaders from around the world.
“Right now we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children,” Ms. Harris said. “That is a singular focus at this time.”
The remarks came after the White House detailed a series of new agreements with Singapore to address climate change, cyberthreats and the pandemic. Ms. Harris has also said the administration is focused on working with Southeast Asian nations to address supply-chain issues, including a global shortage of semiconductors that are used to build cars and computers. More broadly, the trip is part of the Biden administration’s goal to refocus its national security strategy on competing with the rising influence of China.
Still, the beginning of Ms. Harris’s trip has been overshadowed by the widely criticized exit of American troops from Afghanistan. The military has evacuated tens of thousands of people from the Afghan capital, Kabul, since Aug. 14, although thousands of Americans and Afghan allies remain in limbo. Thousands of Afghans seeking to escape the Taliban have rushed to the airport there amid violence and several deaths.
Standing alongside Mr. Lee, Ms. Harris said her presence in Singapore, as well as the agreements reached during the visit, should assure allies that the United States remained a credible partner.
“I am standing here because of our commitment to a longstanding relationship, which is an enduring relationship, with the Indo-Pacific region, with Southeast Asian countries and, in particular, with Singapore,” she said.
Afterward, Mr. Lee said he had offered to send one of Singapore’s military planes to assist in the effort to evacuate Afghan interpreters, guides and others who had helped or worked for the United States. Ms. Harris said the United States would follow up on the offer.
“We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again,” Mr. Lee said, “and post-Afghanistan in the longer term, what matters is how the U.S. repositions itself in the Asia Pacific, engages the broader region and continues the fight against terrorism.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has led the Supreme Court through rulings that have weakened the Voting Right Act.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
When Judge John G. Roberts Jr. faced the Senate for his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in September 2005, critics sounded the alarm about his longstanding skepticism toward the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which many view as crucial to the political gains of Black Americans over the last half century.
“I fear that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to be chief justice of the United States, the Supreme Court would no longer hear the people’s cries for justice,” Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader from Georgia, said in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination.
Judge Roberts was easily confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate despite pleas from Mr. Lewis and other civil rights activists. He went on to oversee the court in rulings that weakened the Voting Right Acts, compromising its decades-long role as a protector of minority access to the ballot box across much of the South. Mr. Lewis died last July, just months before Republican state legislatures enacted an onslaught of voting restrictions after the 2020 elections.
While Mr. Lewis may be gone, House Democrats hope to keep his spirit alive by passing a bill bearing his name next week that they hope will offset what Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called “disastrous” and “shameful” decisions undermining voting rights by the Roberts-led court.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is one element of a two-pronged legislative effort by Democrats to protect minority voting rights. A much broader bill, the For the People Act, would impose an array of requirements on states to expand voting by mail and early voting along with extensive provisions on ethics, campaign finance and redistricting. The bill named for Mr. Lewis is narrower and focuses on restoring the power of the Voting Rights Act. Both measures face a bleak future in the Senate, where Republicans are nearly unanimous in their opposition to them.
But Democrats, who control the evenly divided chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, say they have not given up. They are scaling back the broader bill to unite their party for coming votes. The Lewis measure already has the backing of all 50 senators who caucus with Democratic leadership and a lone Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — far from the minimum of 10 Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster.
The Lewis measure is aimed at reinvigorating the voting protections Democrats say were lost in two Supreme Court decisions that “gutted” the landmark underlying law — Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
The Congressional Black Caucus is a firm part of the Democratic establishment, close to House leadership and the relationship-driven world of political consulting and campaigns.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
The Congressional Black Caucus is the largest it has ever been, jumping to 57 members this year after a period of steady growth. The 50-year-old group, which includes most Black members of Congress and is entirely Democratic, is also more diverse, reflecting growing pockets of the Black electorate: millennials, progressives, suburban voters, those less tightly moored to the Democratic Party.
But while a thread of social justice connects one generation to the next, the influx of new members from varying backgrounds is testing the group’s long-held traditions in ways that could alter the future of Black political power in Washington.
The newcomers, shaped by the Black Lives Matter movement rather than the civil rights era, urge Democrats to go on the offensive regarding race and policing, pushing an affirmative message about how to overhaul public safety. They seek a bolder strategy on voting rights and greater investment in the recruitment and support of Black candidates.
Perhaps more significant than any ideological or age divide, however, is the caucus’s fault line of political origin stories — between those who made the Democratic establishment work for them and those who had to overcome the establishment to win.
Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a Democrat and the most powerful Black lawmaker in the House, said in an interview that the group still functioned as a family. But that family has grown to include people like Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, an outspoken progressive who defeated a caucus member in a hotly contested primary last year, and Representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois, whose district is overwhelmingly white.
“There was not a single member of the caucus, when I got there, that could have gotten elected in a congressional district that was only 4 percent African American,” Mr. Clyburn said, referring to Ms. Underwood.
“We didn’t have people in the caucus before who could stand up and say, ‘I know what it’s like to live in an automobile or be homeless,'” he said of Ms. Bush, whose recent dayslong sit-in on the Capitol steps pushed President Biden’s administration to extend an eviction moratorium.
In interviews, more than 20 people close to the C.B.C. — including several members, their senior aides and other Democrats who have worked with the group — described the shifting dynamics of the leading organization of Black power players in Washington.
The caucus is a firm part of the Democratic establishment, close to House leadership and the relationship-driven world of political consulting and campaigns. However, unlike other groups tied to party leaders, the caucus is perhaps the country’s most public coalition of civil rights stalwarts, ostensibly responsible for ensuring that an insider game shaped by whiteness can work for Black people.
Today, the C.B.C. has swelling ranks and a president who has said he owes his election to Black Democrats. There is a strong chance that when Speaker Nancy Pelosi eventually steps down, her successor will be a member of the group. At the same time, the new lawmakers and their supporters are challenging the group with a simple question: Whom should the Congressional Black Caucus be for?
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, has issued a formal advisory declaring misinformation an “urgent threat” to public health.Credit…Tom Brenner/Reuters
Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s surgeon general, renewed the administration’s attack on coronavirus misinformation of Sunday, two days after The New York Times reported that Facebook had shelved a study showing that its most-viewed link during the first three months of the year was to an article that suggested a link between a Covid-19 vaccine and a Florida doctor’s death.
“The speed, scale and sophistication with which it is spreading and impacting our health is really unprecedented,” Dr. Murthy said of coronavirus misinformation during an appearance on CNN on Sunday. “And it’s happening largely, in part, aided and abetted by social media platforms.”
The Biden administration has aggressively and publicly pressured social media companies such as Facebook to share more data about false and misleading information on their sites, and to tamp down its spread. Mr. Biden at one point accused Facebook of “killing people” by allowing false information to circulate widely, before later softening his position.
Facebook — which has pushed back by publicly accusing the White House of scapegoating it — this week released its first public quarterly report about the most viewed posts in the United States, for the quarter that includes April, May and June.
The report showed that the most viewed link on the platform was a news story with a headline suggesting that a coronavirus vaccine was at fault for the death of a Florida doctor. Misinformation peddlers used the article to question the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines on Facebook. It also revealed that a Facebook page for The Epoch Times, which routinely spreads misinformation, was among the 20 most popular pages on the social network.
Dr. Murthy’s remarks on the issue of misinformation and its spread came after he was asked about reports of people taking an anti-parasite drug to treat Covid-19. “It is costing us in terms of people’s health,” he said.
Asked specifically about Facebook having disclosed the popularity of the news article that was seen to reduce confidence in the coronavirus vaccines, Dr. Murthy said it reinforced the fact that “there is a lot of misinformation circulating on these sites.”
“I will readily say that the sites have recognized that this is a challenge, and they’ve stepped up to do some things to reduce the spread of misinformation. And I credit them for that,” he said. “But it’s not nearly enough.”
“There are people who are superspreaders of misinformation,” he added. “And there are algorithms, still, which continue to serve up more and more misinformation to people who encounter it the first time. These are things that companies can and must change. And I think they have a moral responsibility to do so quickly and transparently.”
Executives at Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg, its chief executive, have said the platform has been aggressively removing Covid-19 misinformation since the start of the pandemic.
The mob that stormed the Capitol in January. Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a police lieutenant, was among a throng that began smashing into a hallway off the House floor while officers were evacuating lawmakers from the chamber.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol Police announced on Monday that they had cleared a lieutenant who fatally shot a rioter inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, after an extensive investigation found that he acted lawfully and potentially saved lawmakers and aides from serious harm or death.
The department’s decision to formally close the case followed a determination in April by the Justice Department that charges against the officer were not warranted in the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, on Jan. 6. Ms. Babbitt was among a throng of Trump supporters that began smashing its way through the entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby, a hallway just off the House floor, while officers were evacuating lawmakers from the chamber.
According to video of the encounter, as people in the mob shattered the lobby’s glass doors, Ms. Babbitt tried to climb through a hole in the glass and a police lieutenant on the other side fired a single shot, hitting her in the left shoulder. After being taken to a hospital, she died.
“The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters,” the Capitol Police said Monday, noting lawmakers were just “steps away.”
“If the doors were breached, the rioters would have immediate access to the House chambers,” the statement said.
Ms. Babbitt was one of five people who died during the assault on the Capitol and in its immediate aftermath. She has become a martyrlike figure for some on the far right.
Capitol Police investigators “determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury,” the statement said.
The agency said it would not be identifying the lieutenant because the officer and the officer’s family “have been the subject of numerous credible and specific threats for actions that were taken as part of the job of all our officers: defending the Congress, members, staff and the democratic process.”
Lawmakers have credited the Capitol Police officer who shot Ms. Babbitt with saving their lives, but increasingly some on the far right have sought to inflame their base over the shooting.
One House Republican, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona — who has a history of associating with extremists and white nationalists — accused the officer of “lying in wait” to carry out an “execution.”
Former President Donald J. Trump has questioned the shooting and why the name of the officer who shot Ms. Babbitt was not released.
He released a statement this month in which he said Ms. Babbitt was “murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger of his gun.”
“We know who he is,” Mr. Trump said.
Ms. Babbitt’s husband has sued to force the release of investigative files related to the shooting, and her family has threatened to seek damages from the Capitol Police for her killing.
The Capitol Police department, like Congress, is not subject to public records requests.
Mark E. Schamel, a lawyer who represents the Capitol Police lieutenant, said his client is a “decorated veteran” who showed “tremendous restraint in firing just one shot.” He said the lieutenant was “nothing short of heroic” as he organized and coordinated the defense of the House on Jan. 6.
“His willingness to remain steadfast in the face of hundreds of violent, extremist, would-be insurrectionists intent on thwarting Congress from performing its constitutional duty was the type of heroism and commitment that the lieutenant has demonstrated in his almost three decades of law enforcement service,” Mr. Schamel said. “The lieutenant’s conduct saved lives and helped to end the violent insurrection.”