The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.


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July 22, 2021, 4:35 p.m. ET
The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Representative Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger, spearheaded legislation that would expand the number of visas available to Afghans who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to expand a visa program for Afghans who are facing retribution for helping American troops and diplomats during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, moving to allow more of them to immigrate to the United States quickly as the Biden administration races to evacuate them.

With Afghans who helped the U.S. personnel now facing threats from the Taliban as American troops withdraw, a broad bipartisan coalition in Congress — led by military veterans who have worked alongside interpreters or fixers in combat zones themselves — has raced to give the administration wider latitude to airlift them to safety.

By a vote of 407-16, the House moved on Thursday to expand the number of available special immigrant visas for Afghans to 19,000 from 11,000 and broaden the universe of people eligible for them by removing some application requirements.

“Many of us have expressed grave concerns about the challenges our allies face in navigating the application process,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the Administration Committee. “Afghans stepped forward to serve aside our brave military.”

Under the legislation, applicants would no longer have to provide a sworn statement that they faced a specific threat or proof that they held a “sensitive and trusted” job. Instead, the measure would in effect stipulate that any Afghan who helped the U.S. government by definition faces retribution, and should be able to apply for a visa.

The legislation also strengthens protections for surviving spouses and children, allowing them to retain eligibility if an applicant dies or is killed before his or her visa is approved. Each visa applicant is allowed to include up to four family members, limited to their spouse and unmarried children under the age 21.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where there is bipartisan support for the Afghan visa program, but funding for its expansion has been embroiled in a broader fight over spending on Capitol security. The same is true for another measure the House passed recently that would waive a requirement for applicants to undergo medical examinations in Afghanistan before qualifying for visas.

Both pieces of legislation aim to shorten the long wait for permission to enter the United States, which can last as long as seven years for some applicants.

Even with the bill passed on Thursday, the application process is still expected to take more than a year — long after the American withdrawal.

Sixteen Republicans opposed the measure, which some of them argued did not contain strong enough vetting for the Afghans who helped American troops. Others argued that the bill was simply misguided at a time when Congress should be more strictly limiting immigration, not making it easier.

But those arguments were rejected by Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida and a former Green Beret who still serves as a colonel in the national guard. He referenced an interpreter he served with in Afghanistan, nicknamed “Spartacus,” who he said had been beheaded along with members of his family for helping Americans.

“The legislation does not diminish or circumvent the screening process,” Mr. Waltz said. “Trust me, before these men and women were allowed to work with our units, they were heavily vetted.”

The legislation, spearheaded by Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger, has widespread support in both parties.

“Some members of this body, including me, may not be here without the service and sacrifice of Afghans who answered the call to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” Mr. Crow said.

Its consideration comes as the Biden administration has announced plans to evacuate an initial tranche of Afghans to an Army base in Virginia in the coming days. About 2,500 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces, as well as their family members, will be sent in stages to Fort Lee, Va., south of Richmond, to await final processing for formal entry into the United States, officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan, the White House has come under heavy pressure to protect the Afghan allies.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, said the Afghans have a “bull's-eye on their back.”

“They will be killed if we don’t get them out of there,” Mr. McCaul said. “Please, Mr. President, get them out before they are killed.”

Some of the Afghans awaiting visas have spoken out about the threats they face from the Taliban.

Since 2014, the nonprofit organization No One Left Behind has tracked the killings of more than 300 translators or their family members, many of whom died while waiting for their visas to be processed, according to James Miervaldis, the group’s chairman and an Army Reserve noncommissioned officer.

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

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
A man was arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Havana, earlier this month.Credit...Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration issued new sanctions on Thursday to punish Cuba’s defense minister and an elite brigade of government security forces for human rights violations against protesters earlier this month.

In the days since demonstrations erupted across Cuba on July 11, the Biden administration has been consulting with officials across Washington and experts on how broadly it should impose economic penalties against authorities accused of ordering or carrying out a heavy-handed response.

The Biden administration concluded that Álvaro López Miera, the head of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, “has played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Members of the special forces unit Boinas Negras, or Black Berets, which was previously sanctioned during the final days of the Trump administration, will also be penalized for a wave of arrests larger than any other crackdown in years, if not decades.

Activists said at least 150 protesters were arrested or disappeared during the July 11 demonstrations, and internet service was cut for much of the island to stifle the anti-government sentiment.

The human rights sanctions, issued as part of the Global Magnitsky Act, allow the American government to freeze the property or other assets in the United States that belong to the people targeted by the economic penalties.

“The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people,” President Biden said in a statement.

He added: “This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.”

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, described the sanctions as among a range of responses Mr. Biden will deploy to help Cubans who are grappling with government oppression and a growing humanitarian crisis. She said that “addressing this moment was a priority for the administration.”

As vice president during the Obama administration, Mr. Biden oversaw a policy that restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than a half-century. But he has taken a tougher stance as president, a position that generally has been greeted warmly by members of Congress — including some Democrats who had been in the awkward position of siding with President Donald J. Trump’s policy of containing Cuba’s communist government.

Cubans have grown increasingly frustrated with their government amid an economic crisis that has included food scarcity, power cuts, skyrocketing inflation and a growing number of Covid-19 deaths. The Cuban government, for its part, has blamed the United States for a trade embargo and, last week, accused American officials of stirring the unrest.

“Our message could not be clearer: The U.S. stands with the people of Cuba and there will be consequences for those with blood on their hands,” Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter. “@POTUS is absolutely right in holding the Cuban regime accountable as it violently tries to squash Cubans’ hopes & dreams.”

The State Department also is considering whether to allow people in the United States to send money to relatives and friends in Cuba though a remittance process that, in past cases, has been exploited by government officials who have seized a cut of the funds. The department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said earlier this week that the Biden administration was examining how to get the money “directly in the hands of the Cuban people.”

Additionally, Mr. Price said, the department may increase the number of American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, where the number of staff was set at the bare minimum during the Trump administration. It is not clear when, or if, the Biden administration will move forward on either front.

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The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
House Republican leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to urge Americans to get the coronavirus vaccine and accused Democrats, without proof, of covering up the virus’s origins.CreditCredit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

House Republican leaders and doctors gathered Thursday morning for a news conference ostensibly to urge Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus amid rising infections across the United States, but they used the event to attack Democrats who they said, without proof, had dissembled about the origins of the virus.

The appearance by the second and third-ranking House Republicans, Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Elise Stefanik of New York, alongside a dozen doctors suggested that a resurgence in the spread of the virus, driven by the more contagious Delta variant, had not prompted the party to change its tone. Mr. Scalise and Ms. Stefanik instead blasted Democrats for what they called a cover-up on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Only when pressed by reporters did the leaders address vaccination.

“I would encourage people to get the vaccine,” Mr. Scalise said near the end of the event, when pressed about his position on it. “I have high confidence in it. I got it myself.”

He and other Republicans spent most of their time on Thursday discussing unproven claims that the Chinese had released a virulent, human-made virus on the world and charging that Democrats had ignored it.

The event in front of the Capitol had been billed as a “press conference to discuss the need for individuals to get vaccinated, uncover the origins of the pandemic, and keep schools and businesses open.” Yet Republicans who attended, many of whom represent constituencies that have refused to get the vaccine, could not seem to bring themselves to hammer home the importance of doing so.

Even the doctors who emphasized vaccinations, Representative Andy Harris of Maryland and Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, soft-pedaled and qualified their statements.

“If you are at risk, you should be getting this vaccine,” Dr. Harris said, adding, “We urge all Americans to talk to their doctors about the risks of Covid, talk to their doctors about the benefits of getting vaccinated, and then come to a decision that’s right for them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone age 12 or over — not only those at higher risk — get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible.

When pressed, Representative Greg Murphy, Republican of North Carolina, demurred: “This vaccine is a medicine, and just like with any other medicines, there are side effects and this is a personal decision.”

The emphasis on the so-called lab leak theory was something of a surprise given the surge of infections concentrated in rural, strongly Republican regions of the country.

Nationally, the average of new coronavirus infections has surged 171 percent in 14 days, to more than 41,300 a day on Wednesday, and deaths — a lagging number — are up 42 percent from two weeks ago, to nearly 250, according to a New York Times database. Still, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain at a fraction from their previous devastating peaks.

Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant. Experts say breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are so far still relatively uncommon. The Delta variant is estimated to account for 83 percent of new cases in the United States, the C.D.C. said earlier this week.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared with 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by The Times in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

But Dr. Murphy said the notion that conservatives are hesitant to receive the vaccine “is not only disingenuous; it’s a lie.”

As for the lab leak theory, one after another, Republicans framed the issue as virtually settled: Research at a virus laboratory in Wuhan, China, created the novel coronavirus through risky “gain of function” experiments, then leaked it into the world.

“Criminals have been convicted on less circumstantial evidence than currently exists, and every day more evidence has revealed,” Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa said.

Recently, some scientists have urged that the possibility of a lab leak be taken seriously, alongside the possibility that the coronavirus emerged naturally, most likely from an animal. But they are mostly looking at the possibility that a naturally evolved virus was present in the lab and escaped, not that the virus was created deliberately. Even some of the most vocal scientific supporters of a lab leak possibility do not claim that there is definitive evidence of the origin of the virus.

Rather than cover up the matter, President Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies in late May to investigate the origins of the coronavirus and to report back in 90 days.

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, an anti-Trump Republican and rare critic of his own party, has signaled his interest in joining the Jan 6. Capitol attack investigation.Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering unilaterally appointing a second anti-Trump Republican, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to two officials familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Mr. Kinzinger, who broke with his party to support investigating the Jan. 6 assault, has made clear for weeks that he would be willing to serve. But Democrats began more seriously weighing the possibility of naming him after the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, said on Wednesday that Republicans would boycott the investigation because Ms. Pelosi rejected two of the five members he had recommended.

“We’ll see,” Ms. Pelosi said on Thursday, when asked about the possibility of going around Mr. McCarthy to directly appoint additional Republican members. “There are some members that would like to be on it.”

Separately, Ms. Pelosi was seriously considering naming Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, as a senior adviser to the committee, according to the officials, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the deliberations. Mr. Riggleman is a former a former Air Force intelligence officer, who emerged from a G.O.P. primary lass last year determined to try to fight disinformation, like QAnon, from overtaking his party.

Because the investigation is being handled by a select committee, Ms. Pelosi has the final say over its membership, in consultation with the Republican leader. She has already given one of the eight seats normally reserved for the majority party to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a former member of Republican leadership who was ousted for criticizing Donald J. Trump and her party for trying to undermine the 2020 election results. The addition of Mr. Kinzinger would make the panel more bipartisan and better ensure at least some Republicans support its work.

Like Ms. Cheney, Mr. Kinzinger has been unsparing in his criticisms of Mr. Trump and his own party after a mob of pro-Trump supporters, egged on by the president, stormed the Capitol and tried to stop Congress from finalizing President Biden’s victory. He has argued that unless Republicans seriously reckon with the former president’s trail of lies about a stolen election and the dangerous forces it unleashed in the country, they risk undermining American democracy.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who will lead the committee, confirmed to CNN on Thursday that Mr. Kinzinger was being considered. He said the 43-year-old Illinois Republican and Air Force veteran would be a “welcome addition.” (A previous version of this item misspelled Mr. Thompson’s surname.)

His spokeswoman did not comment.

Democrats have discussed the possibility of adding other Republicans whom they trust to take the committee’s work seriously. But several conceded that Mr. Kinzinger may be the only one other than Ms. Cheney willing to buck Mr. McCarthy, who suggested in recent weeks that any Republican member who accepted an appointment from Ms. Pelosi would lose their seats on other committees.

The latest spat over its members began this week when Mr. McCarthy recommended the appointment of five Republicans, including two staunch allies of Mr. Trump who supported the bid to overturn the election results in Congress on Jan. 6 and equated the riot to racial justice protests.

Normally, the speaker would simply rubber stamp the choices of a minority leader for such a committee. But Ms. Pelosi said she could not allow the two Trump loyalists, Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, to serve. Mr. McCarthy responded by saying Republicans would not participate.

On Thursday, Ms. Pelosi made clear she would not reverse course, citing statements by the two Republicans dismissing the investigation as “impeachment round three” and suggesting it was Democrats who ought to be scrutinized for not properly defending the Capitol.

“Nobody is saying it should all be on the same point of view going on the committee,” Ms. Pelosi said. “But when statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of ‘You must be kidding,’ there is no way that they are going to be on the committee.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court building last month. The court will hear an abortion rights case in the fall.Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Calling Roe v. Wade “egregiously wrong,” Mississippi’s attorney general on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to do away with the constitutional right to abortion and to sustain a state law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The court will hear arguments in the case in the fall, giving its newly expanded conservative majority a chance to confront what may be the most divisive issue in American law: whether the Constitution protects the right to end pregnancies.

Lower courts blocked the Mississippi statute, calling it a cynical and calculated assault on abortion rights squarely at odds with Supreme Court precedents. The justices agreed to hear the case in May, just months after Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has said she is personally opposed to abortion, joined the court. She replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a proponent of abortion rights, who died in September.

The new filing, from Attorney General Lynn Fitch, was a sustained and detailed attack on Roe and the rulings that followed it, notably Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that said states may not impose an “undue burden” on the right to abortion before fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or about 23 or 24 weeks.

“The Constitution does not protect a right to abortion,” Ms. Fitch wrote. “The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion. Nothing in the Constitution’s structure implies a right to abortion or prohibits states from restricting it.”

She told the justices that the scope of abortion rights should be determined through the political process. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this court returns abortion policy to the states — where agreement is more common, compromise is often possible and disagreement can be resolved at the ballot box.”

The law at issue in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392, was enacted in 2018 by the Republican-dominated Mississippi Legislature. It banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”

The precise question the justices agreed to decide was “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Depending on how the court answers that question, it could reaffirm, revise or do away with the longstanding constitutional framework for abortion rights.

Ms. Fitch urged the justices to take the third approach, saying it would bolster the legitimacy of the court.

“Roe and Casey are unprincipled decisions that have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law — and, in doing so, harmed this court,” she wrote.

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The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
A group of Democratic senators wants the F.B.I. to clarify the steps it took in investigating Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s background during his Supreme Court confirmation.Credit...T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Nearly three years after Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s tumultuous confirmation to the Supreme Court, the F.B.I. has disclosed more details about its efforts to review the justice’s background, leading Senate Democrats to question the thoroughness of the vetting and to conclude it was shaped largely by the Trump White House.

In a letter dated June 30 to two Democratic senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, an F.B.I. assistant director, Jill C. Tyson, said that the most “relevant” of the 4,500 tips the agency received during an investigation into Mr. Kavanaugh’s past were referred to White House lawyers in the Trump administration, whose handling of them remains unclear.

The letter left uncertain whether the F.B.I. itself followed up on the most compelling leads. The agency was conducting a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that “the authorities, policies, and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply,” the letter said.

Ms. Tyson’s letter was a response to a 2019 letter from Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Coons to the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, posing questions about how the F.B.I.’s review of Mr. Kavanaugh was handled.

In an interview, Mr. Whitehouse said the F.B.I.’s response showed that the bureau’s handling of the accusations into misconduct by Mr. Kavanaugh was a sham. Ms. Tyson’s letter, Mr. Whitehouse said, suggested that the F.B.I. ran a “fake tip line that never got properly reviewed, that was presumably not even conducted in good faith.”

Mr. Whitehouse and six of his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee replied to the F.B.I.’s letter on Wednesday with demands for additional details on the agreement with the White House that governed the inquiry. They also pressed for more information on how incoming tips were handled.

Donald F. McGahn, the White House’s general counsel at the time, and the F.B.I. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Former President Donald J. Trump has long taken credit for Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which was almost derailed over allegations by a California professor that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her during a high school gathering in the early 1980s.

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Former congresswoman Abby Finkenauer in Cedar Rapids in 2018. Ms. Finkenauer lost her seat in 2020 after serving a single term representing the eastern part of Iowa.Credit...Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times

Former congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a 32-year-old Democrat, is jumping into next year’s race against Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, an 87-year-old Republican who was first elected to the seat eight years before she was born.

Ms. Finkenauer, who is from Dubuque, was narrowly defeated by the Republican Ashley Hinson last year after serving a single term representing the eastern part of the state. She kicked off her campaign Thursday by accusing Mr. Grassley and other top Republicans of “remaining silent” when the Capitol was attacked on Jan. 6.

“It’s politicians like Senator Grassley and Mitch McConnell who should know better but are so obsessed with power that they oppose anything that moves us forward,” she said in an announcement video posted on her Twitter account. “Since the Capitol was attacked, they’ve turned their backs on democracy and on us.”

Mr. Grassley, who was the third-ranking Republican at the time of the riot, decried it as “an attack on American democracy itself” and called on the perpetrators to be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

But he subsequently opposed Democratic efforts to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection, saying that he viewed it as a “scheme” intended to distract from what he called President Biden’s failure to contain the migrant crisis at the border. And he has compared the most serious assault in the history of the Capitol to smaller, violent left-wing demonstrations in Portland, Ore., and other cities.

A spokesman for Mr. Grassley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Finkenauer, who has run as a moderate in the past to attract centrists in a district that contained the urban centers of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, signaled that she would focus on union rights, the agricultural sector and issues vital to her generation of younger voters in the upcoming election.

“My parents could not give me a trust fund or debt-free college, but they taught me about seeing work to be done and doing it,” said Ms. Finkenauer, whose father was a welder, and mother a public school employee.

She is the first Democratic candidate to announce her candidacy. Mr. Grassley defeated his Democratic challenger in 2016, former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, by 25 points — a similar margin as in his previous victories.

The state, once a bipartisan proving ground, veered sharply to the right in the last two presidential elections, delivering solid victories to former President Donald J. Trump after narrowly breaking for former President Barack Obama in the previous two cycles.

Republicans responded to Ms. Finkenauer’s announcement by tying her to her party’s left wing, and by mocking her failure to win a second term.

“Abby Finkenauer and her far-Left positions are indistinguishable from those of Bernie Sanders, A.O.C., and the socialist squad, so it’s not surprising Iowans fired her just last year,” a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman said in a statement. “Today, Abby signed up to become a two-time loser.”

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Tracy Stone-Manning at a confirmation hearing in Washington last month. Democrats believe they have the votes to confirm her to lead the Bureau of Land Management despite Republican opposition.Credit...Alex Brandon/Associated Press

A heated Senate panel deadlocked along partisan lines on Thursday over the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning, whom Republicans have accused of lying about her connection to a 1989 tree-spiking incident, to lead the Bureau of Land Management.

The 10-10 vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee means Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, must employ a rarely used maneuver to “discharge” the nomination to the Senate floor. Democrats have said they are confident they have the votes to ultimately confirm her.

Republican have alleged that Ms. Stone-Manning knew in advance about a decades-old plot to drive metal spikes into trees in Clearwater National Forest in Idaho in an effort to prevent the sale of old-growth timber. Ms. Stone-Manning, as a graduate student in Montana at the time, retyped and mailed a letter to the United States Forest Service on behalf of one of the activists who spiked the trees. She later testified, helping to convict two of the men involved, and has described her action as trying to warn the authorities.

“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists and lied to our committee. Lying to the United States Senate has consequences. In this case her actions and her lies should cost her this nomination,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top Republican on the panel.

Democrats challenged that version of events, and said the accusations against Ms. Stone-Manning are really about Republican objections to President Biden’s climate change agenda, which includes efforts to phase out oil and gas drilling on public lands and pivot the country to renewable energy.

The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the Interior Department that oversees grazing, logging and drilling on 245 million acres of public land and manages 700 million acres of mineral rights. It is responsible for balancing oil, gas and coal extraction with recreation and the protection of natural resources.

Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico accused Republicans of “character assassination.” Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the chairman of the committee, called the debate around Ms. Stone-Manning one of the most “emotional” the panel has held, and described her as a “youthful sympathizer” with radical environmentalists, who is guilty of no crimes and who went on to have an exemplary career.

“I have been unable to find any credible evidence in the exhaustive records of the tree-spiking case that Ms. Stone-Manning is an eco-terrorist,” Mr. Manchin said, adding, “What I find instead is compelling evidence that she built a solid reputation over the past three decades as a dedicated public servant and problem solver.”

Ms. Stone-Manning, 55, is currently the senior adviser for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit conservation group. She served as the head of Montana’s environmental agency and as chief of staff to former Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat.

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The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Federal agents outside a courthouse in Portland, Ore., last July during clashes with protesters.Credit...Mason Trinca for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In an unusual move by a committee chairman in the president’s own party, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is refusing to schedule a hearing for President Biden’s nominee to run U.S. Customs and Border Protection until the administration answers questions about the federal response to the unrest in Portland, Ore., last summer.

Mr. Wyden, a Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, notified the White House this week of his decision to delay a hearing for Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Ariz. Mr. Biden nominated Chief Magnus in April to run the agency, which plays a central role in addressing the influx of migrants at the country’s southern border.

Mr. Wyden said that for months, he had been asking officials from the Justice and Homeland Security Departments to answer specific questions about how the agencies, under former President Donald J. Trump, prepared for the extraordinary step of sending federal law enforcement officers into the streets of Portland, and what happened on the ground, when protests there turned violent after George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Standing up a military-type presence in the middle of downtown protests against police violence remains one of the most contentious decisions that Mr. Trump made during his time in office.

“Six months into the new administration, the Department of Homeland Security and Justice have failed to answer basic questions about how the Trump administration misused federal resources to stoke violence against peaceful protesters in my hometown,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, this month. He said he was demanding “some straight answers” from the Justice and Homeland Security Departments about their actions in Portland last year.Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Mr. Wyden is a liberal who holds one of the most powerful posts in the Senate. He was elected to the chamber in 1996 after serving in the House since 1981, where he represented a district that includes parts of Portland.

“While it is clear that Customs and Border Protection faces pressing issues,” he said in the statement, “as the senior senator from Oregon, I am unable to advance this nominee until D.H.S. and D.O.J. gives Oregonians some straight answers about what it was up to in Portland last year, and who was responsible.”

The move by Mr. Wyden comes as the flow of migrants across the country’s southern border has surpassed the peak levels of recent years. The Border Patrol, which is part of Customs and Border Protection, caught migrants crossing into the country more than 178,000 times without documentation in June, the most apprehensions since April 2000.

The administration is planning for how it will lift a public health order put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, which it has used to turn back migrants at the border more than one million times. Lifting that order will further increase the number of people trying to get into the country, raising the sense of urgency to get a permanent leader in place at Customs and Border Protection.

“Given the continuing humanitarian crisis at the border, there is an urgent need for his leadership and expertise,” members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, a group of local law enforcement officials that supports an immigration overhaul, wrote of Chief Magnus in an open letter Wednesday.

A year ago, as the protests in Portland stretched on throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump was using “egregious tactics” to address the unrest in Portland.

“Homeland Security agents — without a clearly defined mandate or authority — are ranging far from federal property, stripped of badges and insignia and identifying markings, to detain people,” Mr. Biden said in a statement at the time. “They are brutally attacking peaceful protesters, including a U.S. Navy veteran.”

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, has placed a hold on the nomination of Chief Magnus and several other homeland security officials until, he said last week, “we can actually get the Biden administration to lay out what their policy is going to be, and what they’re going to do to be able to actually enforce the law.”

That kind of move is typical of senators who are not in the president’s party, but interference from an ally of the president is not.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Homeland Security said the agency responded to Mr. Wyden privately last week and “looks forward to working with him to resolve his concerns.”

Keith Chu, a spokesman for Mr. Wyden, said the department had provided only “partial” answers to the senator’s questions. A Justice Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the agency was working with Mr. Wyden’s office on his requests.

According to a White House official, the administration is hopeful that the Senate will cooperate with plans to move forward with Chief Magnus’s nomination.

Downtown Portland was shuttered for weeks last summer because of people protesting against police violence after a white Minneapolis police officer killed Mr. Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25. While the shooting prompted protests around the country, demonstrations in downtown Portland outlasted those in most other cities.

Positioning himself as a law-and-order president, Mr. Trump described the city as lawless, filled with “anarchists” who “hate our country.” And he praised the actions of armed federal officers from multiple agencies who fired tear gas into crowds and pulled protesters into unmarked vans. Among the officers deployed to Portland were members of a special tactical team from Customs and Border Protection that is typically deployed for operations against drug smuggling.

Doing so only incensed the protesters, who had been raising concerns that fascism was on the rise in the United States.

“The uncoordinated deployment of poorly trained federal law enforcement in Oregon, and in other parts of the country, must never occur again,” Mr. Wyden wrote in a June 9 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.

An inspector general report released in April found that the Homeland Security Department had the authority to send federal officers to Portland, but did not properly prepare them or coordinate with other agencies.

While the report addressed some of Mr. Wyden’s questions, he is seeking additional answers about who led the agents on the ground and whether they were identifiable, with badges and uniforms. He has also asked what guidance, if any, the officers were given about how to interact with protesters and members of the media. And he has asked for a list of equipment that federal officers used while deployed in Portland.

Mr. Wyden has also asked about the deployment of federal officers to Portland hours after Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Mr. Mayorkas began a departmentwide review in March of the decisions that led to the agency’s involvement in the Portland protests. The review is seeking “to ensure that all D.H.S. law enforcement personnel receive appropriate training and operate pursuant to policies in keeping with best practices and law,” said Marsha Espinosa, a department spokeswoman. She said the agency “is committed to respecting the rights of all individuals who peacefully exercise their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly.”

In May, Mr. Biden revoked a Trump-era executive order that had paved the way for federal law enforcement officers to descend on Portland with the stated goal of protecting federal buildings and property.

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
Opponents of capital punishment have said they hope the Biden administration will move to end the practice.Credit...Bryan Woolston/Reuters

One man was charged in Orlando, Fla., with kidnapping and fatally shooting his estranged wife. Another man was indicted in Syracuse, N.Y., in the armed robbery of a restaurant and the murders of two employees. And a third man was charged in Anchorage with fatally shooting two people during a home invasion.

Those cases and four others prosecuted in federal courts around the country all had a common theme — they were among cases in which the Justice Department under President Donald J. Trump directed federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty if they won convictions.

But now, under a new administration, the Justice Department has moved to withdraw the capital punishment requests in each of the seven cases. The decisions were revealed in court filings without fanfare in recent months.

The decision not to seek the death penalty in the cases comes amid the Biden administration’s broad rethinking of capital punishment — and could signal a move toward ending the practice at the federal level.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions and ordered a review of the way death sentences are carried out. But the decision not to seek the death penalty in cases where it had already been authorized goes further, taking capital punishment off the table in cases that are still being prosecuted.

It was not immediately clear whether the decision to withdraw the death penalty authorizations in the seven cases was part of a broader effort, and the Justice Department has not announced policy changes in how or when the government seeks the death penalty.

Other lawyers are still waiting for responses to their requests for de-authorization of the death penalty in their clients’ cases.

The House votes to increase the number of visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. troops.
The first of two memorials to mark the Haitian president passing, this one for dignitaries held at the National Pantheon Museum in Port Au Prince, Haiti. July 20th, 2021.Credit...Federico Rios for The New York Times

The struggle for power in Haiti after the assassination of the country’s president has spilled onto K Street, where rival Haitian politicians, business leaders and interest groups are turning to lobbyists to wage an expensive and escalating proxy battle for influence with the United States.

Documents, interviews and communications among Haitian politicians and officials show a scramble across a wide spectrum of interests to hire lobbyists and consultants in Washington and use those already on their payrolls.

A group text chat in the days after the killing of President Jovenel Moïse that included Haitian officials, political figures and American lobbyists showed them strategizing about countering American critics and potential rivals for the presidency and looking for ways to cast blame for the killing, according to copies of the messages obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by some of the participants. The chat began before the assassination and originally included Mr. Moïse, though it appeared to take on a more frenetic tone after he was gunned down in his home this month.

The texts and other documents help bring to life how lobbyists from firms including Mercury Public Affairs — which was paid at least $285,000 in the second half of last year by the Haitian government — are working with allied politicians to position successors in the wake of the assassination. In addition to Mercury, lobbying filings show that Haiti’s government is paying a total of $67,000 a month to three other lobbyists or their firms.

At the same time, competing political factions are looking for ways to develop backing in Washington for their own candidates.

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  • Initial claims for state jobless benefits rose last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

  • The weekly figure, before seasonal adjustments, was about 406,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 110,000, up about 14,000 from the week before. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. (On a seasonally adjusted basis, state claims totaled 419,000, an increase of 51,000.)

  • New state claims remain high by historical standards but are one-third the level recorded in early January. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as businesses return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

  • More than 20 states have recently discontinued some or all federal pandemic unemployment benefits — including a $300 supplement to other benefits — even though they are funded through September. Officials in those states said the payments were keeping people from seeking work. But judges in Maryland and Indiana have blocked the early cutoff, and legal challenges are pending in three other states.

  • A survey of 5,000 adults conducted June 22-25 by Morning Consult found that those whose unemployment benefits were about to expire felt more pressure to find work. But of all those on unemployment insurance, relatively few — 20 percent of those who had worked full time, and 28 percent of those who had worked part time — said the benefits were better than their previous work income in meeting basic expenses.

  • The Labor Department’s employment report for June showed that the economy had 6.8 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. A separate report found 9.2 million job openings at the end of May as businesses that had closed or cut back during the pandemic raced to hire employees to meet the reviving demand.

  • But there is a substantial amount of turnover, with far more workers quitting their jobs than are being laid off — a sign that many are jumping to positions that pay even slightly more. And the rush by businesses to staff up in lower-paying jobs means that many workers can afford to wait for a better deal.