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Biden Outlines Actions to Reduce Gun Violence
President Biden announced new efforts to tackle gun violence on Wednesday, including cracking down on illegal sales and providing new funding for police departments and community-based organizations.
Crime historically rises during the summer. And as we emerge from this pandemic, the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may be more pronounced than it usually would be. For folks at home, here’s what you need to know. I’ve been at this a long time and there are things we know that work to reduce gun violence and violent crime and things that we don’t know about. But things we know about: Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important; ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines; community policing and programs that keep neighborhoods safe and keep folks out of trouble. These efforts work. They save lives. But over time, these policies were gutted and are woefully underfunded. In our conversation today, we talked about our strategy to supercharge what works while we continue to push the Congress to act on sensible gun violence legislation. We know that if there is a strict enforcement of background checks, then fewer guns get into the hands of criminals. Background checks have thus far kept more than three million guns out of the hands of felons, convicted felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and others prohibited from being able to purchase a gun. If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections. My message to you is this: We’ll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets. It’s an outrage, has to end and we’ll end it. Period.
President Biden announced new efforts to tackle gun violence on Wednesday, including cracking down on illegal sales and providing new funding for police departments and community-based organizations.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Biden said on Wednesday that states could draw from $350 billion in federal stimulus money to shore up police departments and vowed to crack down on gun dealers who fail to run background checks, as the White House seeks to combat the alarming rise in homicide rates in America’s cities.
Mr. Biden’s speech made clear that he intends to approach crime prevention by investing in, rather than defunding, the police — wading into a national debate about whether the government should give police departments more resources, or spend the money on mental health and other social services instead.
The president tried to appeal to both sides on Wednesday, saying from the White House that “this is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities.”
Under Mr. Biden’s new plan, state and local governments will be allowed to use their designated $350 billion of coronavirus relief funds for programs such as hiring police officers to prepandemic levels, paying overtime for community policing work and supporting community-based anti-violence groups. City governments struggling with high crime will be able to go even further, hiring even more officers than they had before the pandemic.
The money is not new spending, but the administration is for the first time encouraging states to use the funds for expanding policing efforts and crime prevention efforts.
The funds can also be used for summer jobs for young people and organizations that aim to intervene with at-risk youths before they commit violence, a nod to criminal justice advocates who have called for political leaders to address the societal factors that drive crime.
With Wednesday’s speech, Mr. Biden aimed to blunt criticism from Republicans who say he is soft on crime. But he also tried to bridge the two flanks of his party: centrist Democrats alarmed by the spike in crime in cities and progressives who are pushing systemic changes to police departments that have long been accused of racial discrimination.
Mr. Biden used the moment to call for Congress to pass legislative measures that would close background check loopholes, restrict assault weapons and repeal gun manufacturers’ immunity from lawsuits.
“Folks, this shouldn’t be a red or blue issue,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s an American issue. We’re not changing the Constitution; we’re enforcing it.”
White House Defends Timing of Harris Trip to Southern Border
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.
“Vice President will travel to El Paso, Texas, on Friday. She’ll be accompanied by Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Earlier this year, as you all know, the president asked the vice president to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador to Guatemala and Honduras. And as a part of this work, she recently traveled to Guatemala and Mexico last month to have those discussions. And this trip to the border on Friday will be a part of this effort. I will note that I’ve also said here, from this podium, and she has also said that when it was the right time, she may go to visit the border. And I will note that we’re at this point, in part, because we’ve made a great deal of progress. And if you look just to a couple of months ago when 6,000 children were in Border Patrol facilities, we’re now at the point where there is far less than 1,000. If you look to just a couple of months ago when there were children who were waiting in Border Patrol facilities for more than 100 hours, and they were certainly overcrowded, now it’s less than 30 hours. In April, there were 22,000 kids in H.H.S. facilities, and now that number is 14,000. Is there still more work to do? Absolutely, that’s the purview of Secretary Mayorkas. But it’s important every component of our government is coordinated.” Reporter: “Was it important for the White House to have her seen at the border before former President Trump has a trip there next week?” “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go to the border.”
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.CreditCredit…Carlos Barria/Reuters
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the United States-Mexico border on Friday, a visit that comes after weeks of criticism from Republicans who assailed her for not visiting even though she is in charge of addressing the root causes of migration.
The criticism came after Ms. Harris’s visit to Mexico City and Guatemala this month, when Lester Holt of NBC grilled her about why she had not visited the border. She responded by calling the visit a “grand gesture” and pointed out that she had not visited Europe yet, either — answers that confounded her critics and members of her own administration.
“She said in the same interview she would be open to going to the border at an appropriate time,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said, fielding questions about Ms. Harris’s visit on Wednesday. “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go the border.”
Administration officials did not give a clear answer about what made this week an appropriate time. Ms. Harris has held the role since March, when President Biden tapped her to lead an effort to improve conditions in Central America to deter migration north. But even during this month’s trip aimed at improving conditions in the region, she continued to face questions over her absence from the border.
Ms. Harris and her aides have since been on the defensive, arguing that she is focused on addressing the poverty and persecution that force vulnerable families to leave their homes. Allies have cautioned the White House not to give in to criticism.
The visit, which was first reported by Politico, will come just days before former President Donald J. Trump is set to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has pledged to finish the border wall that became a symbol of Mr. Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.
After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.
“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”
The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.
“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.
The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.
“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”
Top White House officials separately met Wednesday evening with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Those discussions were expected to center on infrastructure negotiations as well as a separate effort to move a large chunk of the president’s $4 trillion economic agenda through the Senate with no Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.
Among those expected to attend the meeting were Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council; Steve Ricchetti, a top adviser to Mr. Biden; Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Susan E. Rice, who leads the White House Domestic Policy Council, according to an official familiar with the plans.
Credit…Sergio Flores for The New York Times
The Biden administration is forcing out the chief of the United States Border Patrol, Rodney S. Scott, who took over the agency during the final year of the Trump administration, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Wednesday.
The move comes as Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit the southwest border on Friday for the first time since President Biden asked her to lead the administration’s efforts to deter migration from Central America. Republicans have increased pressure on both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to visit the border, where a record number of migrants have been trying to cross in recent months.
Mr. Scott, a 29-year veteran of the Border Patrol, took the helm of the agency in February 2020. He was a supporter of President Donald J. Trump’s signature border policy, a plan to complete a wall between the United States and Mexico. The Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while Mr. Scott had been asked to move on, it was possible he could be reassigned to a new post within the department.
The Border Patrol monitors nearly 6,000 miles of the nation’s borders with Mexico and Canada, in between official points of entry. It has been at the center of a highly polarized national debate over immigration policy, particularly as Mr. Trump employed hard-line tactics against undocumented immigrants.
At Mr. Trump’s direction, the Border Patrol sought to catch and detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including migrant families who had fled violence in their home countries.
Earlier this year, Mr. Scott refused to follow a Biden administration directive to stop using the term “illegal alien” in reference to undocumented immigrants. Referring to immigration laws, which use the term, Mr. Scott said that public trust in the Border Patrol would continue to erode if its agents were forced to use terms “inconsistent with law.”
Mr. Scott was in charge of the agency when highly trained Border Patrol agents, assigned to investigate drug smuggling organizations, were deployed to the streets of Portland, Ore., last summer. While their mission was to protect federal buildings during a series of protests against police violence, there were reports of federal agents in riot gear inside the city and away from federal property. Mr. Scott pushed back against those reports, but the episode and others like it last summer left an indelible mark on the Trump legacy.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.
At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attacks of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol.
In court papers filed last week, prosecutors laid out seven reasons they believed Ms. Morgan-Lloyd should not have to serve time in prison. It is likely to serve as a checklist for other rioters who committed no violence and were accused of only minor crimes. Prosecutors noted that Ms. Morgan-Lloyd was not violent at the Capitol, did not plan her breach in advance, remained inside only briefly and allowed investigators to question her thoroughly about her role in the riot as well as search her cellphone.
Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also submitted a statement to the court saying that she was “ashamed” and suggested that her relatively peaceful part in the breach allowed others to do worse.
“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did,” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”
At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”
“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”
Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd agreed to pay restitution of $500 to help defray the estimated $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
President Biden announced Wednesday that he was nominating Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain, as ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme, giving the post to a longtime Republican friend as he continues to emphasize the importance of bipartisanship in a deeply divided Washington.
Ms. McCain, who participated in a video supporting Mr. Biden’s candidacy during the all-virtual Democratic National Convention last summer, was seen as a “must do” for an ambassador posting in the Biden administration, according to sources familiar with the process, and has been undergoing the vetting process for some time.
In the video, Ms. McCain spoke about Mr. Biden’s “unlikely friendship” with her husband.
“My husband and Vice President Biden enjoyed a 30+ year friendship dating back to before their years serving together in the Senate,” she tweeted before the Democratic convention. “So I was honored to accept the invitation from the Biden campaign to participate in a video celebrating their relationship.”
The U.N. mission is based in Rome.
Mr. Biden also announced on Wednesday that he was nominating Claire Cronin, a Massachusetts state representative, as ambassador to Ireland. Former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a longtime Biden friend, had taken himself out of the running for that posting because he did not want to move his family out of the country, according to people familiar with the process.
Both nominations had been long expected.
A third nominee was Jack Markell — a former governor of Mr. Biden’s home state, Delaware — who is the president’s choice for U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of ambassador.
Mr. Biden announced his first slate of ambassador nominations earlier this month, including his picks for key posts to Mexico, Israel and NATO.
But some of his selections for the most significant posts abroad — including R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer and a former ambassador to NATO, to serve as ambassador to China; Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles to serve as ambassador to India; and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago to serve as ambassador to Japan — have still not been announced, even though multiple people familiar with the process said their nominations had been finalized internally.
Credit…Pool photo by Astrid Riecken
President Biden on Wednesday removed the chief of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, acting immediately after the Supreme Court ruled that the president had the authority to dismiss the agency’s director.
The director, Mark Calabria, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, issued a statement wishing his successor well and noting that he respected the decision of the court and the president’s authority to remove him. The White House said late Wednesday that it had designated Sandra L. Thompson, a deputy director at the agency, as the acting chief.
Replacing Mr. Calabria gives Mr. Biden more control over the fate of the mortgage giants, which play an outsize role in the housing market and are central to many homeowners’ ability to afford homes. Fannie and Freddie do not make home loans but instead buy mortgages and package them into securities, providing a guarantee to make investors who buy those securities whole in case of default. That helps keep the cost of 30-year mortgages low.
During his tenure, Mr. Calabria had overseen the enactment of a number of rules that were seen as critical steps toward ending the federal government’s conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie, which was imposed in 2008 at the start of the financial crisis. Mr. Calabria has favored a move toward privatizing Fannie and Freddie and ending the conservatorship.
Many housing advocates and Democrats also favor ending it, but they do not necessarily want Fannie and Freddie put into private hands.
The Supreme Court ruling stemmed from a dispute between shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Treasury Department over $124 billion in payments the two lenders were required to make to the government after the 2008 housing crisis.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for a unanimous court on this point, rejected the shareholders’ argument that this so-called profit sweep exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.
But he added, now writing for six justices, that the law that created the housing agency violated the Constitution because it insulated the agency’s director from presidential oversight.
General Milley Defends Military Teaching of ‘Critical Race Theory’
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back forcefully on Wednesday to objections raised by Republican lawmakers about the teaching of “critical race theory” at service academies.
I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. In the United States Military Academy is a university. And it is important that we train and we understand. And I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it. So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians, they come from the American people. So, it is important that the leaders now and in the future do understand it. I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, non-commissioned officers of being, quote, woke or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there. That was started at Harvard Law School years ago. And it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential with African Americans, that were 3/4 of a human being, when this country was formed. And then we had a Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation to change it. And we brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took another 100 years to change that. So look, I do want to know. And I respect your service, and you and I are both Green Berets, but I want to know. And it matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back forcefully on Wednesday to objections raised by Republican lawmakers about the teaching of “critical race theory” at service academies.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back on Wednesday against suggestions from a Republican congressman that the military was becoming too “woke,” calling such accusations “offensive” and alluding directly to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in which some veterans and active-duty members participated.
Mr. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III were testifying before the House Armed Services Committee when they were questioned about anti-extremism efforts and curriculums about race relations at service academies and beyond.
Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, asked about the teaching of “critical race theory” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and specifically a seminar called “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.”
“This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern about how divisive this type of teaching is that is rooted in Marxism,” Mr. Waltz said.
Mr. Austin, who is the nation’s first Black defense secretary, suggested that the teaching of literature concerning white rage, as Mr. Waltz had described it, “certainly sounds like something that should not occur.”
But General Milley, who is white, defended both the seminar and the broader practice of teaching service members controversial or uncomfortable ideas.
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” General Milley said.
“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” he continued, as Mr. Austin looked on. “What is wrong with having some situational understanding about the country we are here to defend?”
Noting that his having read writers like Karl Marx did not make him a communist, General Milley went on a long, impromptu disquisition on the history of racism in the military and the need for cadets and service members alike to study it.
“I do want to know,” he said. “It matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military.”
For the 29th year, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the Cold War-era American embargo on Cuba, with many diplomats exhorting the Biden administration to resume the reconciliation that was upended by former President Donald J. Trump.
The Biden administration’s “no” vote appeared to signal, at least for now, that it would move cautiously to undo Mr. Trump’s policy on Cuba, which remains a politically contentious issue in the United States — particularly in Florida, home to many Cubans who fled Fidel Castro and his successors.
The U.N. resolution denouncing the six-decade embargo is symbolic only, having no practical effect. But the vote, held since 1992, amounts to a tradition for critics of American policy to vent their anger and express solidarity with Cuba at the United Nations.
The United States had always voted against the resolution until it abstained from the vote during the last year of the Obama administration, while Mr. Biden was vice president, signaling a move to fully repair U.S. relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of estrangement.
But Mr. Trump sought to reverse that direction after he took office, and the United States resumed voting against the resolution during his term. He went much further, adding sanctions on Cuba and — in his final weeks in office — putting the country back on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
A full termination of the embargo, which can only be rescinded by Congress, seems highly unlikely any time soon. But Mr. Biden is still expected to gradually move away from Mr. Trump’s stance on Cuba.
Credit…Danna Singer/ACLU, via Getty
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a Pennsylvania school district had violated the First Amendment by punishing a student for a vulgar social-media message sent away from school grounds.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for an eight-member majority, said part of what schools must teach students is the value of free speech. “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy,” he wrote. “Our representative democracy only works if we protect the ‘marketplace of ideas.’”
“Schools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” he wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
It has been more than 50 years since a high school student won a free-speech case the Supreme Court.
“The opinion reaffirms that schools’ authority over the lives of students is not boundless,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind.”
“At the same time,” he said, “the decision is intensely, almost painfully narrow, and for that reason it offers little in the way of clarity to students, educators or lower court judges.”
The case concerned Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student who had expressed her dismay over not making the varsity cheerleading squad by sending a colorful Snapchat message to about 250 people.
She sent the message on a Saturday from a convenience store. It included an image of Ms. Levy and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with a string of words expressing the same sentiment. Using a swear word four times, Ms. Levy objected to “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”
Though Snapchat messages are meant to vanish not long after they are sent, another student took a screenshot and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended Ms. Levy from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”
Ms. Levy sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds, relying on precedent from a 1969 case.
Here are other key rulings announced Wednesday by the Supreme Court:
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
The Supreme Court, which has said that police officers do not need a warrant to enter a home when they are in “hot pursuit of a fleeing felon,” ruled on Wednesday that the same thing is not always true when the crime in question is minor.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a seven-justice majority in the case, Lange v. California, said the mere fact that someone suspected of a minor crime had fled from the police did not justify entering a home. She added that other factors could change the calculus.
“We have no doubt that in a great many cases flight creates a need for police to act swiftly,” she wrote. “A suspect may flee, for example, because he is intent on discarding evidence. Or his flight may show a willingness to flee yet again, while the police await a warrant. But no evidence suggests that every case of misdemeanor flight poses such dangers.”
The case concerned Arthur Lange, a retiree in Sonoma, Calif., who was charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, and playing music too loudly, an infraction, after an officer followed him home and used his foot to stop Mr. Lange from closing his garage door. Mr. Lange moved to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that the officer’s entry into his home had violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
In an unusual move, California did not defend a lower court’s decision in its favor and instead urged the Supreme Court to rule that only felonies justified entering a home without a warrant.
Austin Backs Plan to Remove Sexual Assault Cases From Commanders
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday formally endorsed a plan, recommended by a Pentagon commission, that would remove the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.
As you know, my first directive as Secretary of Defense issued on my first full day in the office was to service leadership about sexual assault. Yesterday, I received the final recommendations and complete report of the independent review commission, and I want to thank Lynn Rosenthal for her exceptional leadership on this commission, as well as the talented experts who worked so hard and so diligently to support her. The result is a comprehensive assessment across four lines of effort: accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support. And that assessment recommends creative and evidence-based options. In the coming days, I’ll present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s finding, but I know enough at this point to say that I fully support removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command. We are prepared to work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice in this regard. The I.R.C. also recommended the inclusion of other special victims crimes inside this independent prosecution system to include domestic violence, and I support this as well. As we move forward, I believe that it’s important to make changes that are both scope to the problem that we’re of trying to solve, and properly resource.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday formally endorsed a plan, recommended by a Pentagon commission, that would remove the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III formally endorsed changes on Wednesday to the way the military handles sexual assault cases, a sharp retreat from years of opposition by prior secretaries on the issue.
The changes, which were recommended by a Pentagon commission convened by Mr. Austin, do not go as far as a bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that she intended to put on the floor soon. That legislation would take decisions about prosecuting all serious crimes committed in the military — not just sexual assaults — from the hands of commanders.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has pushed a similar bill for nearly a decade, but she has faced resistance from the chairman and top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“As you know, my first directive as secretary of defense, issued on my first full day in the office, was to service leadership about sexual assault,” said Mr. Austin, who appeared before the House Armed Services Committee with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“In the coming days, I will present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s finding,” Mr. Austin said. “But I know enough at this point to say that I fully support removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command.”
The competing visions of how far to go in altering the military justice system set the stage for a potentially intense legislative battle over an issue that has vexed the Pentagon for generations with little progress. Some military leaders have begun to protest such changes.
Republicans Filibuster Voting Rights Bill
Senate Republicans used the filibuster on Tuesday to block debate on an ambitious Democratic bill aimed at countering a wave of ballot restrictions in G.O.P.-controlled states.
“The For the People Act is about setting basic national standards to make sure that all voters in this country can vote legally in the way that works for them, regardless of what ZIP code they live in, regardless of if they live in a big city or in a suburb or out in a small town in Western Minnesota. It is about reducing the power of big money in our elections by ending secret spending by billionaires and special interests. And it is about making anti-corruption reforms to ensure politicians work for the people, not for themselves.” “The federal takeover elections shouldn’t happen. I urge my colleagues not to support it happening. The American people don’t want to see the things imposed on our election system that are in this bill. And I urge my colleagues to vote against this harmful legislation.” “On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.” “All we wanted to do here on the floor was to bring up the issue of voting rights and debate how to combat these vicious, oftentimes discriminatory voting restrictions. And today, every single Democratic senator stood together in the fight to protect the right to vote in America. Regrettably, our efforts were met by the unanimous opposition of the Republic — of the Senate minority. Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history along Donal — alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression, to their enduring disgrace.”
Senate Republicans used the filibuster on Tuesday to block debate on an ambitious Democratic bill aimed at countering a wave of ballot restrictions in G.O.P.-controlled states.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
The demise of the For the People Act — the far-reaching voting rights bill that Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday — is a crushing blow to progressives and reformers, but it opens up more plausible, if still rocky, paths to reform.
The law, known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, was full of progressive wish list measures — from public financing of elections to national mail-in voting — that all but ensured its failure in the Senate.
But there were roads not taken. Reformers did not add provisions to tackle the most insidious and serious threat to democracy: election subversion, where partisan election officials might use their powers to overturn electoral outcomes. Those concerns have only escalated over the last several months as Republicans have advanced bills that not only imposed new limits on voting, but also afforded the G.O.P. greater control over election administration.
Instead, the bill focused on the serious but less urgent issues that animated reformers at the time it was first proposed in 2019: allegations of corruption in the Trump administration, the rise of so-called dark money in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, or the spate of voter identification laws passed in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s election victories.
Originally, the bill was seen as a “political statement” or a “messaging bill,” not as the basis for a realistic legislative effort.
One narrow, yet possible avenue emerged in the final days of the push for H.R. 1: a grand bargain, like the one recently suggested by Joe Manchin III, the moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia who provoked outrage among progressives when he said he would oppose the bill in its current form.
The Manchin compromise resembles H.R. 1 in crucial ways. It does not address election subversion any more than H.R. 1 does. And it still seeks sweeping changes to voting, ethics, campaign finance and redistricting law. But it offers Republicans a national voter identification requirement, while relenting on many of the provisions that provoke the most intense Republican opposition.
Mr. Manchin’s proposal nonetheless provoked intense Republican opposition. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri derided it as a “Stacey Abrams” bill. And Mitch McConnell, the minority leader from Kentucky, appeared to suggest that no federal election law would earn his support.
Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock
The Biden administration plans to extend the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, by one month to buy more time to distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic housing aid, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation.
The moratorium, instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.
Congressional Democrats, local officials and tenant groups have been warning that the expiration of the moratorium at the end of the month, and the lapsing of similar state and local measures, might touch off a new — if somewhat less severe — eviction crisis.
President Biden’s team decided to extend the moratorium by a month after an internal debate at the White House over the weekend. The step is one of a series of actions that the administration plans to take in the next several weeks, involving several federal agencies, the officials said.
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 that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in some parts of the country and by other factors that have extended the coronavirus crisis.
Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Mr. Biden and the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. 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.
A spokesman for the C.D.C. did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Many local officials have also pressed to extend the freeze as long as possible, and are bracing for a rise in evictions when the federal moratorium and similar state and city orders expire over the summer.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced on Monday that his state had set aside $5.2 billion from federal aid packages to pay off the back rent of tenants who fell behind during the pandemic, an extraordinary move intended to wipe the slate clean for millions of renters.
Still, 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.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
Facing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.
In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes. It was his administration’s most muscular response so far to a rise in crime in major cities.
In New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and a Democratic stronghold, it was Eric Adams, a former police officer who is Black, who rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.
The back-to-back developments signaled a shift within the Democratic Party toward themes of public safety. Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it.