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House narrowly passes $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, paving the way to enact Biden’s expansive agenda.


House narrowly passes $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, paving the way to enact Biden’s expansive agenda. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top deputies were still working on Tuesday morning to scrounge together the support needed to adopt the budget measure. Credit… Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times A divided House on Monday approved a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would pave the way for a vast expansion of social safety net and climate programs, as Democrats overcame sharp internal rifts to advance a critical piece of President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. Approval of the budget was a milestone in Democrats’ drive to enact their top priorities — including huge investments in education, child care, health care and paid leave, and tax increases on wealthy people and corporations — over Republican opposition. But it came only after Democratic leaders quelled an internal revolt among moderates, who had balked at passing the plan before the House acted on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. As the White House mounted a pressure campaign to win their backing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered a plan to tie both measures together with one vote, allowing approval of the budget blueprint with a vote on a measure committing the House to taking up the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27. The vote was 220-212, along party lines, to advance the budget plan and allow for future votes on both the infrastructure bill and on a voting rights measure that was on track to pass later Tuesday. While the budget plan, which passed the Senate this month, does not have the force of law, its final approval allows Democrats to move forward with a fast-track process known as reconciliation. That would enshrine the details of the blueprint in legislation that is shielded from a filibuster, allowing it to pass the Senate over the opposition of Republicans. It is expected to include universal preschool, paid family leave, federal support for child care and elder care, an expansion of Medicare and a broad effort to tackle climate change — all paid for through tax increases on high earners and companies. “Today is a great day of pride for our country and for Democrats,” Ms. Pelosi declared on the House floor, after nearly two days of frenzied haggling with rank-and-file lawmakers. “Not only are we building the physical infrastructure of America, we are building the human infrastructure of America, to enable many more people to participate in the success of our economy and the growth of our society.” Speaking at the White House shortly after, Mr. Biden praised Ms. Pelosi as “masterful,” and lavished praise on the Democratic leadership team and every congressional Democrat who ultimately supported the legislation. “There were differences, strong points of view — they’re always welcome,” the president said. “What is important is that we came together to advance our agenda.” But approval of the budget only served to illustrate how tricky it will be for Democrats to push Mr. Biden’s agenda through to enactment. The same divisions between moderates and progressives that nearly derailed the plan this week promise to surface again in the days to come, as progressives push to make the reconciliation bill as far-reaching as possible and conservative-leaning Democrats work to limit its scope. In the 50-50 Senate, leaders need the votes of every Democrat and independent — plus Vice President Kamala Harris, who can break ties — to win passage of the legislation. In the House, the margin is only slightly more forgiving, allowing as few as three Democrats to defect if all Republicans are opposed, as expected. Ten centrist Democrats, led by Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, had publicly refused to move forward with the budget before the infrastructure package passed the House. They argued that the broadly supported bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate this month — which omitted many of the party’s top priorities — should be enacted immediately. But progressive Democrats, backed by Ms. Pelosi, have said their priority is the broader budget package that is to include their most cherished agenda items, and they were concerned that their conservative-leaning colleagues would not support that bill unless it was tied to the infrastructure legislation. Rank-and-file lawmakers had grown increasingly frustrated with the delay in passage of the budget blueprint. The standoff has exacerbated deep mistrust among Democrats that is only likely to grow in the coming weeks, as they toil to unite around the reconciliation bill. Read more

A report of an unexplained ‘health incident’ in Hanoi delays Harris’s arrival. Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday. Credit… Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters Vice President Kamala Harris was delayed Tuesday for more than three hours as she was departing from Singapore for Vietnam because of a report of a recent possible “anomalous health incident” in Hanoi, where she will discuss public health strategies and seek to bolster partnerships in the South China Sea, a crucial piece of President Biden’s strategy to counter the rising economic influence of China. “Anomalous health incident” is how the Biden administration typically refers to cases of the so-called “Havana Syndrome” attacks, the unexplained headaches, dizziness and memory loss reported by scores of State Department officials, C.I.A. officers and their families. A spokeswoman for Ms. Harris, Symone Sanders, assured reporters traveling with the vice president on her second foreign trip since taking office that her health was not affected. “You saw her get onto the plane. She is well, all is fine and looking forward to meetings in Hanoi tomorrow,” Ms. Sanders said when pressed on the cause of the delay. She later added: “This has nothing to do with the vice president’s health.” A State Department spokesman said in a statement that “after careful assessment, the decision was made to continue with the vice president’s trip.” The delegation arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Tuesday night. Before departing for the airport, Ms. Harris participated in a closed-door meet-and-greet with U.S. embassy staff. Members of the press corps traveling with her were already loaded into a motorcade awaiting her departure when they were abruptly sent back to their hotel rooms, before being summoned back to continue the trip. Upon arriving in Hanoi aboard Air Force Two, Ms. Harris did not respond to a shouted question from a reporter about why she decided to continue on her trip in the wake of the report. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that the incident was not a confirmed case, but that it was reported publicly and “was not a person traveling in her party or anything along those lines.” Ms. Psaki said the vice president had not been in contact with anyone experiencing symptoms. Annie Karni and Read more

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The House is on track to pass a voting rights measure, with little path forward in the Senate. People rallied in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act in Washington last month. Credit… Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times The House is expected to vote on Tuesday to restore federal oversight of state election laws, as Democrats begin a push to strengthen the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act amid a national fight over access to the ballot box. Democrats view the legislation, named after the late civil rights icon Representative John Lewis of Georgia, as a linchpin in their battle against voting restrictions in Republican-led states. It would reverse two Supreme Court rulings that gutted the statute, reviving the power of the Justice Department to bar some discriminatory election changes from taking effect. It would also make it easier for voters to bring legal challenges to balloting rules that are already on the books. Up against urgent deadlines ahead of next year’s midterm elections, Democrats were expected to adopt the measure along party lines during a rare August session, just days after the bill was introduced. But stiff Republican opposition awaits in the Senate, where a likely filibuster threatens to sink the bill before it can reach President Biden’s desk. That outcome is becoming familiar this summer, as Democrats on Capitol Hill try to use their party’s control of Congress and the White House to lock in watershed election changes — only to be blocked by their Republican counterparts. In the meantime, more than a dozen G.O.P.-led states have already enacted more than 30 laws making it harder to cast votes. Frustration with that dynamic has fueled increasingly desperate calls from progressives and many mainstream Democrats to invoke the so-called nuclear option and eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate. Doing so would allow Democrats to move unilaterally without Republican support, but any rules change would require support from all 50 Democrats in the chamber, and key moderates oppose doing so. During the debate before Tuesday’s vote, proponents of the bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, framed it as a vital complement to Democrats’ other major elections bill, the For the People Act. Even more ambitious, that legislation would set new national standards making it easier to vote, end partisan gerrymandering and combat dark money. “The history of the fight for voting rights in America is long and painful,” said Representative Deborah Ross, Democrat of North Carolina. “It’s up to us to meet the urgency of the moment, live up to our constitutional responsibilities and pass this critical piece of legislation.” Lawmakers drafted the Voting Rights Act fix to respond directly to a pair of Supreme Court rulings in which a conservative majority invalidated or weakened key portions of the statute. The first came in 2013, when the justices in the case of Shelby County v. Holder effectively struck down a provision requiring states and jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices to receive advance approval from the federal government for any changes to their election rules. The court specifically ruled that the formula used to determine which entities should be subject to such requirements was outdated, and said Congress would have to update it for it to be constitutional. The bill being debated on Tuesday proposes an updated and expanded coverage plan. The legislation also attempts to overturn a Supreme Court decision last month in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee that took aim at a separate section of the statute and made it harder to successfully challenge voting changes as discriminatory in court. Republicans have enthusiastically supported expansions of the Voting Rights Act in the past. But since the court’s 2013 decision, they have shown little appetite to revive the portions of the statute that were struck down, arguing that the kind of race-based discrimination that the law was originally designed to fight no longer exists. Instead of addressing a real problem, said Representative Michelle Fischbach, Republican of Minnesota, Democrats were trying to give the federal government “unprecedented control” to run roughshod over the states and set rules that would be beneficial to their political candidates. “It empowers the attorney general to bully states and forces those states to seek federal approval before making changes to their own voting laws,” she said. Read more

Biden says the U.S. is poised to meet the Afghan withdrawal deadline, at least for now. Video transcript Back bars 0:00 / 1:38 – 0:00 transcript ‘No Change to Timeline,’ Pentagon Says of Aug. 31 Troop Withdrawal The Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby noted there has been no change in strategy for extraditing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. There’s been no change to the timeline of the mission, which is to have this completed by the end of the month. We continue to make progress every day in getting Americans as well as S.I.V. applicants and vulnerable Afghans out. And you heard the numbers that the general briefed. The president’s direction has been to complete this withdrawal, this evacuation and withdrawal, by the 31st of August. That that is the direction that we are operating under, and therefore, that is driving a lot of our plans. You heard us say and you heard the secretary say that if there needed to be a conversation about changing that, that he would have that conversation. I’m not going to get into internal deliberations about what people may be thinking one way or the other. But you heard the national security adviser say yesterday that he believes that we can accomplish this mission by the end of the month. So we are still driving towards the end of the month. That’s where we are now. And if and when there’s any change to that we’ll certainly make it clear to the American people. We remain committed to getting any and all Americans that want to leave to get them out. And we still believe, certainly now that we have been able to increase the capacity in the flow, we believe that we have the capability, the ability to get that done by the end of the month. The Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby noted there has been no change in strategy for extraditing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Credit Credit… Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times President Biden said Tuesday that the United States was on track to end its two-decade-long military involvement in Afghanistan by his Aug. 31 deadline. But Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House, said he had spoken to military leaders so they would be prepared to “adjust that timetable, should that become necessary.” U.S. forces are still working around the clock to evacuate Americans and some of their Afghan allies from Kabul, the capital. “It is a tenuous situation,” he said. Mr. Biden gave reporters a barrage of figures about the accelerating evacuation effort at the Kabul airport, saying 70,700 people had been airlifted out so far. “We are currently on pace to finish by August the 31st,” he said. “The sooner we can finish the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.” But he said much of the success of that effort hinged on the Taliban continuing to cooperate with the operation and allowing access to the airport. He said the legitimacy of the Taliban government in the eyes of the United States and its allies depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations, including ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a base for international terrorism. Earlier in the day, the president met virtually with leaders of the Group of 7 nations. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that Mr. Biden had told his counterparts: “Our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives. He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by Aug. 31.” Ms. Psaki said the president had warned the other world leaders that every day American forces stayed in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, the risk escalated, especially from terrorist groups operating in the country in the aftermath of the militants’ takeover. The president also “made clear,” Ms. Psaki said, that “completion of the mission by Aug. 31 depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport.” Military officials will start withdrawing the 6,000 U.S. troops in Kabul as early as this week or this weekend, according to an American military official, who said U.S. forces would continue to fly evacuation missions up until the last few days. Then they will need to give priority to the remaining troops and equipment, and to any American citizens wanting to leave. Already, the United States has started to reduce its military presence at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. A Defense Department official said that of the 5,800 Marines and soldiers at the airport, about 300 who were not essential to the escalating evacuation operation had left the country. Given the logistics of moving so many troops and so much equipment, officials said, the military needs to start moving out within the next several days if it is to meet the deadline. Officials said military officials could slow the departure if Mr. Biden extended the date. Many world leaders have urged the United States to delay its final exit from Afghanistan to ensure that all citizens of other countries can be evacuated safely. The president and his team have said for days that Mr. Biden is considering whether the troops securing the Kabul airport should stay longer to facilitate more evacuations. Officials have said they are hopeful that won’t be necessary, but activists, lawmakers and representatives of other governments have expressed skepticism that all of the people seeking to flee the Taliban government will be able to do so by the end of the month. The Taliban warned Monday that there would be “consequences” if Mr. Biden chose to leave forces in their country beyond that date. And American military and intelligence officials have warned of a heightened danger of attacks from ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, and other terror networks. The pace of evacuations has accelerated drastically despite the chaos and desperation, mostly among Afghans, outside the airport. But Mr. Biden is in a bind. If he orders an extension of the mission, he may be putting troops and diplomats in more danger. But conservatives have already accused him of being willing to “strand” Americans in Afghanistan by leaving before all of them have been evacuated. That drew a sharp response on Monday from Ms. Psaki. “I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded,” she said in response to a question from Peter Doocy of Fox News. “They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via email, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home.” Michael D. Shear, Annie Karni and Read more

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G.O.P. and Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to extend the troop withdrawal deadline. Video transcript Back bars 0:00 / 1:19 – 0:00 transcript Bipartisan Push in House for Afghanistan Withdrawal Extension House Democrats and Republicans held news conferences and pushed for the Biden administration to extend the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 extension deadline, citing the need for a slow exit in order to not escalate the current situation with the Taliban. “We must do everything necessary, regardless of the deadline at the end of the month. We must extend that and get the mission done. The deadline is when the mission is accomplished and we bring our people home — full stop.” “I think it is critically important we ensure our military has the tools it needs to complete the mission. I do not believe that this can be accomplished by Aug. 31. And I’ve requested that the Sec. Def. and State encouraged the president in the strongest possible terms to reconsider that deadline.” “There’s no possible way that we can get every American that’s still in Afghanistan out in the next seven days. We are just three weeks away from the 20th anniversary of 9/11, at no time should America ever been or allow the Taliban to tell us when we have to stop bringing Americans out. We should stay until every single American is able to get out of Afghanistan. We should use every resource possible to make that happen, and we should not negotiate it. We should explain that this is what is going to happen, and anybody in our way to stop us from bringing an American out will be in danger.” House Democrats and Republicans held news conferences and pushed for the Biden administration to extend the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 extension deadline, citing the need for a slow exit in order to not escalate the current situation with the Taliban. Credit Credit… Sarabeth Maney/The New York Times Lawmakers in both parties urged Biden administration officials in a closed-door briefing Tuesday to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, arguing that it would not be possible to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies by then. The rising pressure from Congress came as President Biden said that he intended — for now — to stand by the end of the month deadline. But in recent days, even top Democratic lawmakers have said that date is unrealistic. “There is a broad bipartisan agreement within the United States Congress that we have to get American citizens out and we have to get our Afghan partners and allies out,” said Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, who is a former Army Ranger. “That can’t be accomplished between now and the end of the month, so the date has to extend until we get that mission done.” Lawmakers pressed the Biden administration to extend the mission during a classified briefing with the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “That was a major point we all tried to make: urging them to do more to advocate with the president to extend the deadline,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a former C.I.A. officer and defense official. On Monday, the president told leaders during a virtual meeting of the Group of 7 that he intended to withdraw American troops by the deadline, a senior administration official said. He cited a high risk of terrorist attacks as one reason. But Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that if the president did not extend the withdrawal date, “he will have blood on his hands.” “People are going to die, and they are going to be left behind,” Mr. McCaul said. Lawmakers said they were not told during the briefing how many American citizens remain on the ground in Afghanistan. White House officials said on Tuesday that since Aug. 14, the United States had “evacuated and facilitated the evacuation” of approximately 58,000 people. For weeks, members of Congress have been inundated with thousands of pleas from American citizens and Afghans trying to escape Afghanistan. “After 20 years at war, our actions over the next week will leave the most lasting impression around the world,” Ms. Slotkin said on Twitter. “And I want the U.S. to be known as a nation that takes risks for those who risk everything for us.” Read more

Herschel Walker files paperwork to enter next year’s Senate race in Georgia. Herschel Walker greeted President Donald J. Trump before speaking at an event in Atlanta in September. Credit… Tom Brenner/Reuters Herschel Walker, the former college and professional football player who became a high-profile ally of former President Donald J. Trump, on Tuesday filed paperwork to enter next year’s race for the Georgia Senate seat currently held by Senator Raphael Warnock. Mr. Walker, 59, was born and raised in Georgia, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a star halfback on the University of Georgia’s football team in the early 1980s, but he had lived outside the state for most of his adult life before changing his voter registration to Atlanta last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday. Mr. Walker, a Republican, made no public announcement on Tuesday. He could not immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Walker has never run for public office, has little history of voting and has no record of financial contributions to federal candidates, but he does have a relationship with Mr. Trump dating to Mr. Walker’s time playing for a Trump-owned professional football team in the 1980s. Mr. Walker was a high-profile surrogate for Mr. Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign and had a speaking role at the Republican National Convention last summer. Mr. Trump has for months publicly called on Mr. Walker to challenge Mr. Warnock, a Democrat who in January won an upset victory over Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, in a runoff election for the final two years of the Senate seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, who retired for health reasons in 2019. Mr. Warnock’s victory, along with that of a fellow Democrat, Jon Ossoff, gave Democrats control of the Senate and unified control of the federal government for the first time since 2010. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” Mr. Trump said in a statement in March. “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the N.F.L. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!” As Mr. Walker considered a campaign, news reports emerged detailing accusations that he had threatened his ex-wife and that he had exaggerated his financial situation. He wrote in a 2008 book about his own mental illness. Mr. Trump’s public affinity for Mr. Walker effectively froze much of the potential Republican field against Mr. Warnock. Other would-be candidates said they would defer to Mr. Walker, who until last week was a Texas resident. Other declared Republican candidates in Georgia’s Senate race include Gary Black, the state’s agriculture commissioner; Kelvin King, who owns a construction company in Atlanta; and Latham Saddler, a former White House official in the Trump administration. Mr. Warnock has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s leading fund-raisers. His most recent federal campaign finance report showed he had $10.5 million on hand at the end of June, a significant head start in a contest likely to see well over $100 million in spending on behalf of both major candidates. Read more

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A top Republican in Pennsylvania promises to review the 2020 results as conspiracy theories flourish. Jake Corman, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, said he expected to use the full power of the state’s General Assembly, including subpoenas, to conduct a review of the 2020 election results. Credit… Dan Gleiter/The Patriot-News, via Associated Press The top Republican in the Pennsylvania State Senate promised this week to carry out a broad review of the 2020 election results, a move that comes as G.O.P. lawmakers continue to sow doubts about the contest’s legitimacy by pushing to re-examine votes in battleground states like Arizona. State Senator Jake Corman, who serves as president pro tempore of the G.O.P.-controlled chamber, made the comments in an interview with a right-wing radio host, and they were first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday. His remarks were the strongest sign yet that Pennsylvania — which President Biden won by more than 80,000 votes — may press forward with a review of 2020 results, despite no evidence of voter fraud that would have affected the outcome. In the interview, Mr. Corman said that he wanted to begin “almost immediately” and that hearings would begin this week. He added that he expected to use the full power of the state’s General Assembly, including subpoenas, to conduct the review, which he referred to as a “forensic investigation.” “We can bring people in, we can put them under oath, we can subpoena records, and that’s what we need to do and that’s what we’re going to do,” Mr. Corman said. “And so we’re going to move forward.” Previously, State Senator Doug Mastriano, a Republican and vocal proponent of former President Donald J. Trump’s falsehoods about the election, had called for a review of results in three counties. Until recently the chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, he sent letters requesting ballots, records and machines from Philadelphia County, which encompasses the state’s largest city and which Mr. Biden won with over 80 percent of the vote; York County, south of Harrisburg, which Mr. Trump won handily; and Tioga County, in the northern part of the state, which Mr. Trump also carried with ease. All three counties refused to comply, and Mr. Mastriano’s legal authority to enforce the requests remains unclear. Last week, Mr. Corman removed Mr. Mastriano from his position as chair of the committee and installed State Senator Cris Dush, also a Republican, to lead the panel and oversee the review. In the interview, Mr. Corman expressed his own doubts about the election. “I don’t necessarily have faith in the results,” he said. “I think that there were many problems in our election that we need to get to the bottom of.” Jason Thompson, a spokesman for Mr. Corman, said that they were “not setting a hard cap on how long the audit will take,” but that he could not comment further because “many of the details of the audit plan are still being worked out, and Senator Dush will need a little more time to settle on the final approach.” Veronica Degraffenreid, who as the acting secretary of the commonwealth oversees Pennsylvania’s elections, has discouraged counties from participating in any election reviews, noting that any inspection of voting machines by uncredentialed third parties would result in their decertification, and that counties would have to bear the considerable costs of replacing the equipment. “The Department of State encourages counties to refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections that would require counties to violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment,” Ms. Degraffenreid’s office said in a statement last month. It remains unclear exactly how Mr. Corman and the Pennsylvania Senate will proceed with their review, including what they might seek in terms of equipment and records, and which counties they might focus on. Mr. Corman did say that, after talking with fellow legislators in Arizona, he was looking for a “neutral arbiter” to help carry out the review — a potential nod to how the Maricopa County review became widely ridiculed in part because the chief executive of the company carrying out the re-examination had promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines costing Mr. Trump victory in the state. “I think it’s important that we get people involved that don’t have ties to anybody, that are professional, that will do the job so that we can stand behind the results,” Mr. Corman said. Read more