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House Democrats introduce a bill to beef up the Voting Rights Act.

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House Democrats introduce a bill to beef up the Voting Rights Act. Representative Carl Sherman of Texas spoke at a demonstration in support of voting rights in Washington last month. Credit… Kenny Holston for The New York Times Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited linchpin of their drive to protect voting rights, introducing legislation that would make it easier for the federal government to block state election rules found to be discriminatory to nonwhite voters. House leaders expect to pass the bill, named the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act after the late civil rights icon, during a rare August session next week. They say it would restore the full force of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after a pair of adverse Supreme Court rulings and that it would help combat a wave of restrictive new election laws in Republican-led states. “Today, old battles have become new again as we face the most pernicious assault on the right to vote in generations,” said Representative Terri Sewell, the bill’s chief author and a Democrat from Alabama’s civil rights belt, where Mr. Lewis and others staged a national campaign for voting rights in the 1960s. “It’s clear: federal oversight is urgently needed.” But like other voting rights legislation to come before Congress this year, its chances of passing the evenly divided Senate are exceedingly narrow. Only one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is likely to support the legislation, leaving Democrats far short of the 60 votes they would need to break a Republican filibuster and send the bill to President Biden’s desk. Senate Republicans already blocked Democrats’ other marquee voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which would establish national mandates for early and mail-in voting and end gerrymandering of congressional districts. And while Democratic leaders in the Senate have vowed more votes on the matter in September, unless all 50 Democrats unite in a long-shot bid to change Senate filibuster rules, they are headed for an identical outcome. The legislation introduced by Ms. Sewell on Tuesday is an effort to restore key pieces of the landmark 1965 voting bill struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court over the last decade. Doing so, its proponents say, would make it far harder for states to restrict voting access in the future. The most consequential ruling dates to 2013, when the justices effectively invalidated a section of the law that required states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting rules to clear any changes to their elections policies with the federal government. At the time, the justices said that the formula used to determine which states were subject to clearance was out of date and invited Congress to update it. The bill also attempts to respond to a decision just last month in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee that effectively made it more difficult to challenge state voting laws as discriminatory in court using a different provision of the law. Voting rights activists fear the two decisions will make it far easier for those in power to marginalize voters of color at the ballot box and during the once-in-a-decade redistricting process underway this year. Just this year, more than a dozen Republican-led states have enacted restrictive new voting laws. “We have seen an upsurge in changes to voting laws that make it more difficult for minority citizens to vote and that is even before we confront a round of decennial redistricting where jurisdictions may draw new maps that have the purpose or effect of diluting or retrogressing minority voting strength,” Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, told a House panel on Monday. Republicans joined Democrats in large numbers to reauthorize the full Voting Rights Act as recently as 2006. But since the high court’s 2013 decision, they have shown little interest in updating the statute, arguing that discrimination is largely a thing of the past and that the federal government ought to stay out of states’ rights to set their own election rules. Asked about the bill on Tuesday, Russell Dye, a spokesman for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of ignoring “real problems” like the crisis of Afghanistan, the influx of migrants at the southern border and rising crime “in favor of pushing a radical far-left political agenda.” Read more

House leaders will press ahead with a vote to advance a $3.5 trillion budget plan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi with two Democratic colleagues, Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, left, and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, on Capitol Hill last month. Credit… T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times House Democratic leaders told members of their caucus on Tuesday that they plan to press ahead with a vote advancing a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint next week, disregarding warnings from moderate Democrats who said they will oppose that legislation without first voting on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The House is set to return to Washington in the middle of a scheduled August recess in part to advance the budget, after the Senate passed both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget plan earlier this month. The budget resolution would allow Democrats to craft a subsequent economic package with funding for health care, child care and education provisions and tax increases on wealthy corporations and people, without fear of a Republican filibuster. But in a statement on Sunday, nine moderate Democrats remained adamant that “we simply can’t afford any delays,” saying they first wanted a vote on the bipartisan deal. But liberal lawmakers have repeatedly emphasized that their support for the $1 trillion bipartisan deal is contingent on passage of the final social policy package, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly said she will wait to take up the bipartisan bill until the far more expansive package clears the Senate. That package is not expected to be finalized until the fall, provided the House approves the budget blueprint. Should all nine moderates — a group that includes Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Jared Golden of Maine and Henry Cuellar of Texas — vote against the budget blueprint, it will fail, given that all Republicans are expected to oppose the package. Despite just a three-vote margin, Ms. Pelosi has shown little willingness to change her plans, telling her top deputies privately on Monday that “this is no time for amateur hour,” according to a person familiar with the comments, which were first reported by Politico. “For the first time America’s children have leverage — I will not surrender that leverage,” she added. “There is no way we can pass those bills unless we do so in the order that we originally planned.” In a private call on Tuesday, she again insisted that “we must build consensus,” according to a person on the call who disclosed the comments on condition of anonymity. She has instead proposed a procedural move that could allow the House to advance both the budget blueprint and the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday with one vote. “I know that we have some arguments about who goes first, and the fact of the matter is that we will be doing all of the above,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, told Democrats, according to a person on the call, who disclosed the comments on condition of anonymity. “Remember the psychology of consensus.” The administration threw its support behind the procedural maneuver, with Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman issuing a statement that in part expressed “hope that every Democratic member supports this effort to advance these important legislative actions.” In a letter to Democrats, Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has publicly vented about his frustration with the Senate legislation, framed a vote in support of the budget document as a chance to preserve the House’s say in what could be the largest expansion of social programs since the Great Society of the 1960s. “The Senate has had unilateral control over the infrastructure bill — if we want House priorities to be considered, we cannot let the same thing happen in reconciliation,” Mr. DeFazio wrote. “But giving the House a voice requires all members of the House Democratic Caucus to work together and take the first step — enacting a budget resolution.” Read more

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Pete Buttigieg says he and his husband, Chasten, are now parents. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, are adopting a baby. Credit… Scott Olson/Getty Images Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, said on Tuesday that he and his husband, Chasten, were completing the process of becoming parents. “The process isn’t done yet and we’re thankful for the love, support, and respect for our privacy that has been offered to us,” Mr. Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet member confirmed by the Senate, wrote on Twitter. “We can’t wait to share more soon.” The Buttigieges, who did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking more details about the announcement, had been exploring adoption in recent months. Mr. Buttigieg, 39, wed Chasten, 32, in 2018, about 10 months before starting his presidential campaign. As Mr. Buttigieg’s national profile grew, he and Chasten, a former middle school teacher, have often worked to challenge perceptions of gay relationships. “People are accustomed to politics looking a different way, and you’re here to make sure that, you know, it can look a different way,” Chasten said in an interview with The Times this spring. In February 2020, Mr. Buttigieg, who is recognized inside the administration for his deftness as a public speaker, hit back at the radio host Rush Limbaugh, who questioned his ability to hold his own on the debate stage with former President Donald J. Trump. “How is this going to look?” Mr. Limbaugh said on his show at the time. “A 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump?” Mr. Buttigieg’s answer challenged the idea that Mr. Limbaugh should be considered an arbiter of masculinity: “Look, I guess he just has a different idea of what makes a man than I do,” Mr. Buttigieg said during an interview on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show. “Look, I’m not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh or anybody who supports Donald Trump, frankly.” On Tuesday, activists said that the couple’s announcement had the potential to similarly reframe assumptions of gay fatherhood. “As parents, they will now shine a national spotlight on L.G.B.T.Q. families, who often face daunting challenges because of outdated policies that narrowly define what families are,” Annise Parker, the president of the Victory Institute, an organization that helps prepare L.G.B.T.Q. people to run for political office, said in a statement. Read more

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has tested positive for the coronavirus. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas at a news conference in Austin in June. He has faced criticism about his stance against mask mandates. Credit… Eric Gay/Associated Press Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, though he has no symptoms, the governor’s office announced. An ardent opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has taken his opposition to such requirements all the way to the State Supreme Court. Mr. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, will now be isolated in the Governor’s Mansion while receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which can help patients who are at risk of getting very sick. Video transcript Back bars 0:00 / 0:59 – 0:00 transcript Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Tests Postive for Covid-19 Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus and said in a video uploaded to Twitter that he was “really not feeling any symptoms right now,” and has previously received the Covid-19 vaccine. This is Gov. Greg Abbott — as you may have heard by now, I have tested positive for Covid-19. I test myself every day, and today is the first day that I tested positive. The good news is that my wife continues to test negative. Also want you to know that I have received the Covid-19 vaccine, and that may be one reason why I’m really not feeling any symptoms right now. I have no fever, no aches and pains, no other types of symptoms. Also, I want to express my gratitude for everybody across the entire country that has been sending in their well wishes. Similarly, I want to send well wishes myself to everybody across the country, and especially here in Texas, for everybody else who is going through the challenge of having Covid. I want you to know that as I work my way through this, I will stay engaged every single day on everything happening at the Texas Capitol, including working with the members of the Legislature, as well as our members across the entire state to keep Texas the best state in the United States. God bless you all and God bless Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus and said in a video uploaded to Twitter that he was “really not feeling any symptoms right now,” and has previously received the Covid-19 vaccine. “The governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” the statement said. “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government.” The announcement came less than a day after Mr. Abbott appeared at a crowded indoor political event hosted by a Republican club in Collin County, a hotly contested area of the fast-growing suburbs north of Dallas. In the images and in videos posted by the governor’s campaign, Mr. Abbott could be seen smiling and shaking hands with supporters who were largely unmasked. “Collin County is fired up to keep Texas RED,” the governor’s campaign posted. According to the The Houston Chronicle, Mr. Abbott told those gathered that masks were optional — a stance that he has taken across Texas even as cases have risen sharply and some hospitals are filling to at or near capacity. The governor’s office did not respond to questions about the event. At least 10 other sitting governors — four Democrats and six Republicans — have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, according to reports compiled by Ballotpedia, a political information site. So have four lieutenant governors, all Republicans. Vaccination rates in Texas lag those of many other U.S. states, and deaths are rising, though far more slowly than in prior waves, given that a majority of the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents are now vaccinated. The state has averaged more than 15,000 new cases a day as of Tuesday, up from an average of more than 10,000 cases a day two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. Mr. Abbott, 63, has faced criticism as available intensive-care beds have dwindled in Austin and in other cities. But he maintained his ban on mask mandates, which prohibits local officials from imposing restrictions in their communities. Fear and frustration over the course of the pandemic in Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, come as schools were preparing to reopen, raising worries about further spread of the virus. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in high-risk areas and that everyone should wear one in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Mr. Abbott, though, doubled down in the opposite direction. He issued an executive order that stopped local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines and reaffirmed decisions to prohibit officials from requiring that students wear masks. Across the United States, most counties are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission, according to the C.D.C. Last week, after Mr. Abbott’s ban suffered at least three legal setbacks, the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said that he was taking the issue to the State Supreme Court. The setbacks were in areas with Democratic leaders, rampant cases and rising hospitalizations. The State Supreme Court sided with the state on Sunday, ruling that schools could not make masks mandatory. As the virus surged, the Texas Department of State Health Services requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government in early August as a precaution, said Douglas Loveday, a spokesman for the health department. The mortuary trailers will be kept in San Antonio, though none have been requested by cities or counties as of Tuesday, he said. The five trailers are scheduled to arrive in Texas beginning on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Correction : Aug. 17, 2021 Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance said that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks in public indoor settings, not that the fully vaccinated did not need to do so. Dan Levin, J. David Goodman and Read more

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Biden defends his decisions, as Kabul’s fall draws fire from all sides. People climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport on Monday. Thousands rushed to the city’s airport trying to flee as the Taliban took control. Credit… Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Almost no one was happy in Washington on Monday as the Taliban routed the American-backed government in Afghanistan and pictures emerged of desperate and frightened people at the Kabul airport struggling to flee the country. Footage of people clinging to a hulking U.S. military transport, even as it left the ground, quickly circulated around the world. Moderate Democrats were furious at the Biden administration for what they see as terrible planning for the evacuation of Americans and their allies from Afghanistan. Liberal Democrats who have long sought to end military engagements around the world grumbled that the images out of Kabul are damaging their cause. And Republicans who months ago cheered for former President Donald J. Trump’s even faster timetable to end U.S. military involvement in the nation’s longest war have shoved their previous encouragements aside to accuse President Biden of humiliating the nation. Mr. Biden vowed again to rescue thousands of Afghans who had helped Americans during the two-decade conflict, but the fate of many who remained in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan was uncertain Monday. And thousands of Afghans with dual American citizenship remained unaccounted for amid reports of revenge attacks by the Taliban as they seized control. Catie Edmondson and