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Daily Political Briefing
Sept. 23, 2021Updated
Sept. 23, 2021, 3:12 p.m. ET
Sept. 23, 2021, 3:12 p.m. ETImageCredit…Federico Rios for The New York Times
The senior American envoy for Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said Thursday, in a letter that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been racked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.
The diplomat, Daniel Foote, was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July, just weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was killed in his bedroom during a nighttime raid on his residence. Thousands of Haitians have since flocked to the Texas border, particularly in the past week, where they have crossed the Rio Grande into the United States and confronted Border Patrol agents on horseback before being deported.
Images of some of the horse-mounted agents chasing Haitians have prompted outrage over the treatment of the migrants. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said the horse patrol unit in Del Rio had been temporarily suspended, and the agents’ actions are being investigated. Border Patrol agents have ridden horses to enforce security since the agency was created in 1924.
“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Mr. Foote wrote in his stinging resignation letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, dated Wednesday.
He also blasted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that “has consistently produced catastrophic results,” and he warned that the number of desperate people traveling to American borders “will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”
Mr. Foote, a career diplomat who had served as ambassador to Zambia and acting assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, declined to comment in a brief email to The New York Times on Thursday. His resignation letter was reported earlier Thursday by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and PBS NewsHour, and its authenticity was confirmed by a senior State Department official and a congressional official.
Thousands of migrants who arrived over the past week are expected to be deported, while Haitian officials have pleaded with the United States to grant a humanitarian moratorium amid widespread instability.
About 1,400 Haitians have been deported since Sunday, with more flights scheduled for each day, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As of Thursday, the Homeland Security Department said that about 4,000 migrants, most of them Haitian, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.
The rise in Haitian migration began in the months after President Biden took office, when he quickly began reversing former President Donald J. Trump’s strictest immigration policies. It was widely seen as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming to migrants.
In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. Two months later, the order was extended again for Haitians in the United States before July 29. But tens of thousands more Haitians have attempted to cross into the United States since then, despite not qualifying for the program.
The Biden administration, facing the highest level of border crossings in decades, has enforced policies intended to slow their entry.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protected status is available,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters on Monday in Del Rio. “I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States.”
Still, thousands of Haitian migrants have been allowed to enter the country and will wait for their cases to go through the backlogged immigration court system.
For the most part, officials are only deporting single people. Families with young children and pregnant women, for example, are typically being allowed in and released, in some cases with a monitoring device, according to officials familiar with the operations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the matter.
Mr. Foote was said to have pushed for greater oversight and responsibilities in his job as envoy to Haiti, efforts that were rejected by senior State Department officials. The department’s spokesman, Ned Price, on Thursday said some proposals put forward, including by Mr. Foote, “were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process.”
“No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas,” Mr. Price said. He was responding to Mr. Foote’s claim, in his resignation letter, that his recommendations were “ignored and dismissed.”
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” Mr. Foote wrote.
Officials at Haiti’s embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
In a statement, the State Department said it was committed to working with the Haitian government and others to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, economic growth, security and the protection of human rights.
The statement said that the United States and the United Nations’ immigration agency were trying to make sure that Haitians who are deported are given a meal, a hygiene kit and $100 when they land at the international airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
“The United States remains committed to supporting safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout our region,” the State Department said. It also thanked Mr. Foote for his service.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.
Credit…Corinna Kern for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved $1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, after a debate that exposed bitter divisions among Democrats over United States policy toward one of its closest allies.
The vote was 490 to 9 to help Israel replace missile interceptors used during heavy fighting in May amid a devastating rocket and missile war with the Palestinians, reflecting the widespread bipartisan support in Congress for Jerusalem that has persisted for decades.
But it came only after a group of progressive Democrats who have accused Israel of human rights abuses against Palestinians revolted, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than support the money. Democratic leaders were forced to strip it out of legislation to keep the government funded past a Sept. 30 deadline, which passed the House on Tuesday, and approve the Iron Dome money separately.
The liberals’ maneuver roiled centrist and Jewish lawmakers, who said they were appalled and astonished by their colleagues’ refusal to fund a defensive system to protect Israeli civilians.
“Whatever your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, using a system that just saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives as a political chit is problematic,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan.
The back and forth was the latest flare-up in a long-simmering feud between the energized progressive wing of the party, which has demanded an end to conditions-free aid to Israel, and other Democrats who maintain strong backing for Israel’s right to defend itself. The internal tensions come as a growing number of Democrats in Washington, prodded by the party’s left flank, say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its treatment of the Palestinians.
“We must stop enabling Israel’s human rights abuses and apartheid government,” Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, said on Wednesday night, announcing that she would vote against the bill.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, on Thursday argued that the United States should no longer continue to provide Israel with funding “without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation.”
“This is not about one country,” Ms. Omar said. “If human rights are truly to guide our foreign policy, we need to act like it everywhere. Otherwise our words ring hollow.”
The episode underlined just how tenuous Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House is — and how any disunity can threaten party leaders’ ability to cobble together the bare minimum votes needed to pass any bill.
Eight Democrats, as well as one Republican, Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, ultimately opposed the measure. Two Democrats, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Hank Johnson of Georgia, voted present.
On Thursday, their comments sparked a furious backlash from some of their colleagues, who argued that the legislation was limited to supporting an entirely defensive system. They noted that during the peak of fighting in May, the Iron Dome intercepted more than 90 percent of the flurry of Hamas-launched rockets that would otherwise have landed in civilian-populated areas.
In an angry speech on the House floor, Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, said he would not allow “one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state.”
“To falsely characterize the state of Israel is consistent with those who advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world,” he said. “When there is no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s antisemitism, and I reject that.”
Determined to show that the party would stand by one of the nation’s closest allies, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, who had lobbied for the aid, downplayed the drama in a phone call to Yair Lapid, Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, calling it a “technical delay” and reiterating his “commitment to ensuring Israel receives this needed aid.”
“After years in which the previous government neglected Congress and the Democratic Party and caused considerable damage to Israel-U.S. relations, we are today rebuilding a relationship of trust with the Congress,” Mr. Lapid wrote on Twitter, confirming the call.
Other party stalwarts, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, rose on Thursday in support of the legislation, arguing that passing the additional funding was crucial to protecting Israeli civilians and noting that it was an extension of a 2016 deal struck by former President Barack Obama.
But eyeing an opportunity to peel away Jewish voters from the Democratic Party, House Republicans cast the altercation as a transgression against Israel. They said progressives’ refusal to allow the funding to pass as part of the broader government spending bill was a missed opportunity to support Israel, even though Republicans opposed the spending bill en masse.
“By blocking funding to resupply the Iron Dome, Democrats made the choice to abandon an opportunity to stand with Israel and its citizens,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, said.
Read moreCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Top Democrats on Capitol Hill grasped to resolve their disagreements over a multi-trillion-dollar social safety net and climate package on Thursday, as President Biden and his team planned another day of negotiations with key lawmakers to find a legislative path to enact his domestic policy agenda.
Democratic leaders claimed progress toward a deal, announcing that they had agreed upon an array of possible ways to pay for it. But they offered no details about what programs would be included or what the total cost would eventually be, and what they called a “framework agreement” appeared to be modest.
The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Richard Neal, signed off on provisions that their respective committees already saw eye to eye on: a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, which affluent taxpayers faced before President Donald J. Trump cut it to 37 percent in 2017; a crackdown on tax-preferred conservation easements, often used by the rich to lower taxation on historical properties; and closing a loophole, famously used by Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire, that can shield huge investment gains from taxation within an individual retirement account.
They agreed that the plan should fulfill Mr. Biden’s call to raise taxes on corporations and capital gains, but did not settle on rates for those items, according to aides familiar with the discussions who detailed them on the condition of anonymity. And they committed to trying to find common ground on their other priorities, such as Mr. Wyden’s proposal to tax the wealth gains of billionaires.
The talks came on a day when Mr. Biden and administration officials were expected to continue meetings focused on advancing both a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a broader $3.5 trillion domestic policy plan that most Democrats now concede will have to be scaled back to win passage.
Party leaders hope to coalesce around a compromise on the social safety net bill by Monday, when a vote is planned on the infrastructure measure. But agreement on a total cost, which programs to include and which to jettison, and how to pay for it will involve painful choices for a divided caucus.
Still, Democratic leaders predicted they would ultimately deliver both measures to Mr. Biden’s desk.
“I’m confident we will pass both bills,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters during her weekly news conference at the Capitol.
Mr. Biden spent much of Wednesday in meetings with Democratic leaders and nearly two dozen lawmakers, listening to the concerns of the feuding factions in his party over his two top domestic priorities.
Moderates are pressing for quick action on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, while progressives have vowed to withhold their votes for that measure until approval of the far broader social safety net measure that is to include vast new investments in climate, education, health and social programs.
Mr. Biden urged moderates who have balked at the size of that package to put forward an overall spending level that they could support, as well as the priorities they wanted to see funded, according to senators and aides.
Democrats are aiming to pass the legislation on a party-line vote using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster and allows it to pass on a simple majority vote. But because of their slim margins of control on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden needs the support of every Democrat in the Senate and can lose as few as three in the House to win enactment of the plan.
But progressive lawmakers who want to see the reconciliation bill completed first pressed Mr. Biden on Wednesday to weigh in with House Democratic leaders against holding a Monday vote on the infrastructure legislation. Concerned that their more conservative-leaning colleagues may refuse to support the larger plan once the infrastructure measure is enacted, liberal Democrats have said they will withhold their votes for that bill until the reconciliation plan clears Congress.
Read moreCredit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
House Democrats plan on Friday to push through broad legislation to uphold abortion rights, taking urgent action after a major Supreme Court setback as they brace for a ruling next year that could further roll back access to abortion nationwide.
The House vote will be largely symbolic given that the bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has little chance of advancing because of Republican opposition in the Senate. But House Democrats’ decision to consider it reflects their view that the issue could resonate strongly in the midterm elections next year, particularly if female voters see the Supreme Court action as a threat to rights that many believed had been long settled.
Democrats moved swiftly to schedule action on the measure after the court refused this month to block a Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of gestation. It would guarantee the right to abortion through federal law, pre-empting hundreds of state laws governing the procedure around the country. Democrats argue that it would codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
The bill’s authors say they began drafting it a decade ago in response to emerging efforts at the state level to impose stringent requirements on those seeking and providing abortions, as well as the increasingly conservative makeup of the court. They say that time is of the essence because the justices are set to rule next year on a Mississippi law that severely restricts abortions.
“It became very evident that we needed to have something that would push back against all these state restrictions,” said Representative Judy Chu, Democrat of California and the lead author of the measure. “We could see that change was possible at the Supreme Court, and we knew we had to make sure that Roe v. Wade was protected.”
But opponents of the law — including some Republicans who have supported abortion rights — argue that it would go far beyond the landmark court precedent, stripping states of much of their ability to regulate abortion and impose measures intended to make the procedure safe. They say it would lead to many more abortions in the late stages of pregnancy.
“This legislation is really about a mandate by the federal government that would demand abortion on demand, without any consideration for anyone, including the conscience of the provider,” said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington and a chief foe of the bill.
Read moreCredit…Pool photo by Matt York
Republicans in the Arizona Senate are expected on Friday to unveil the results of the deeply flawed review they ordered into Democratic election victories last November in the state’s largest county.
The study, conducted by Republican loyalists and conspiracy theorists, some of whom previously had called the election rigged, has long since lost any pretense of being an objective review of the 2020 election. It focuses on the votes that saw President Biden narrowly win the state and elected a Democrat, Mark Kelly, to the U.S. Senate, and its origins reflect the baseless Republican claims of a stolen election.
An Arizona Senate spokesman, Mike Philipsen, said that a public briefing on the findings would be held on Friday at 1 p.m. Pacific time, and that a link to the full report would eventually be posted on the Senate Republican caucus website.
But regardless of the outcome, the effort in Arizona has already inspired copycat efforts in other states. And it has become a way to keep alive false claims of fraud and undermine faith in the 2020 election and democracy itself. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for example, Republican-dominated Legislatures have ordered Arizona-style reviews of the 2020 vote in their states, sometimes in consultation with the same conspiracy theorists behind the Arizona investigation.
“We’re at an inflection point,” said Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix pollster and Republican political consultant who has been skeptical of the Arizona investigation. “When the results drop, I’ll be curious to see how the Legislature’s Republican leaders react to this, including the State Senate itself.”
Legitimate audits of the vote ordered by the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which oversaw the election, have repeatedly found no evidence of fraud that could have tainted the results. And the inquiry has been dogged from its start by slipshod and sometimes bizarre conduct.
The firms conducting it had essentially no prior experience in election work, and experts said their haphazard recounting of ballots guaranteed unreliable results. Election officials said security lapses raised the risk that voting equipment had been compromised. And some aspects of the investigation — checking ballots for secret watermarks, and for bamboo fibers that would suggest they were printed in Asia — were based on outlandish conspiracy theories.
But the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Jack Sellers, said that whatever the findings, the Arizona Senate investigation had lent a veneer of credibility to charges of election fraud that will be tough to overcome.
“Anybody who pays attention knows there are no remaining issues” with the November vote, he said. “But it doesn’t seem to take a lot to keep some people having doubts. I’m not sure there’s a cure for that.”
Read moreCredit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has finalized a rule to phase down the use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators, its latest effort to put climate change at the center of its agenda ahead of a pivotal United Nations summit.
Under a regulation expected to be issued Thursday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency will reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 85 percent over the next 15 years. The White House also will announce a task force and other enforcement efforts to prevent the illegal production or importation of the destructive man-made compound.
HFCs were used to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the 1980s but have turned out to be a significant driver of global warming. While they are only a small percentage of greenhouse gases and stay in the atmosphere for a short time, they have a thousand times the heat-trapping potency carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate pollutant.
A fact sheet released by the White House called the set of policies “one of the most consequential climate actions taken by the federal government” and said it would cut the equivalent of three years worth of climate pollution from the electricity sector. Experts said the rule would go a long way in helping the United States make good on a pledge that President Biden made to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
The move comes on the heels of a pact between the United States and Europe to eliminate a third of global emissions from methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, by 2030. So far 15 top methane-emitting countries, have signed on, including Mexico, Indonesia and Iraq. The Biden administration is also poised to put forward new regulations on the oil and gas sector, which is the largest industrial source of methane.
As nations prepare for global climate talks that are scheduled to take place in less than six weeks in Glasgow, the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to show it can deliver on that target, particularly as broad U.S. climate legislation faces an uncertain future in Congress.
Gina McCarthy, the White House climate change adviser, said in a statement that reducing HFCs was “needed to meet the moment” on global warming. She called the policies “a win for climate and a win for American manufacturing.”
Environmental groups and the business community have championed phasing out HFCs and supported a 2016 accord signed in Kigali, Rwanda, in the last days of the Obama administration, as well as related bipartisan legislation passed by Congress in December. Several industry leaders said they had been told by the White House that Mr. Biden intended to soon send the Kigali accord to the Senate for ratification soon.
Stephen R. Yurek, president and chief executive of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade association, said that adopting the Kigali accord was important even though the United States was already moving toward implementing it.
“It’s about reputation and credibility,” he said. Formally joining the broader global effort, he said, was “good for the environment, good for the economy and good for trade.”
Correction: Sept. 23, 2021
An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified the location of the building shown in the image. It is in Stuyvesant Town, not the garment district in Midtown.
Read moreCredit…John Moore/Getty Images
President Biden declared to the United Nations on Tuesday that “for the first time in 20 years, the United States is not at war. We’ve turned the page.”
One day earlier, a missile fired from an American drone incinerated a car driving along a remote road in northwestern Syria, a strike aimed against a suspected Qaeda operative. Three weeks before that, the military launched an airstrike in Somalia targeting members of the Shabab militant group, part of an American air campaign in that country that has intensified in recent months.
There are no longer American troops in Afghanistan, but America’s wars go on.
Mr. Biden’s assertion at the United Nations was intended to show he had made good on his pledge to end America’s longest war, but it was just the latest attempt by an American president in the two decades since the Sept. 11 attacks to massage the language of warfare to mask a sometimes inconvenient reality: that America is still engaged in armed conflict throughout the world.
There are more than 40,000 American troops stationed around the Middle East.
“Our troops are not coming home. We need to be honest about that,” Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, said during congressional testimony this month from Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. “They are merely moving to other bases in the same region to conduct the same counterterrorism missions, including in Afghanistan.”
The shadow wars fought with drones and special operations troops have been as much a part of the history of the post-Sept. 11 era as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden administration officials have been clear that combat missions in other countries will continue, namely those that do not involve large deployments of American troops or draw intense news media scrutiny.
Read moreCredit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
John Kerry, the former United States senator and secretary of state, is also the first presidential climate envoy. That has made him a kind of traveling salesman for the environment, shuttling from country to country with an urgent pitch to save the planet.
He’s visited 14 countries in nine months, some of them more than once. He flies commercial these days and, at 77, the travel is tiring. But he is under mounting pressure.
With less than six weeks before leaders from around the world gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a pivotal United Nations climate summit, Mr. Kerry needs to convince other countries to commit to sharply turn away in this decade from burning coal, oil and gas and cut the resulting carbon emissions, which are heating the planet to dangerous levels.
Mr. Kerry recently described his decision to return to government as “what the fight of public life is all about.” In an interview during a recent trip to India, he said, “I deeply believe that this is a major crisis for our world. And this is a moment where we have a chance to do something about it. And who can say no to a president of the United States who asks you to do that at this particular moment in time.”
His sales approach to international political and business leaders is simple: “We’ve got to do what the science tells us to do.”
But his task is enormous, and his path often uphill. Mr. Kerry is trying to reassert American leadership and illustrate Mr. Biden’s claim that “America is back” — a difficult proposition following the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who questioned the science behind climate change and withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord. None of the other 196 signatory nations have done so.
Allies openly ask Mr. Kerry whether they can still count on the United States. “I said ‘Look, come next election, you may have Trump back,” R.K. Singh, India’s power minister said a day after meeting with Mr. Kerry. “So then what happens?”
Mr. Kerry’s mission is further complicated by political fissures at home and the fact that President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda may not survive a divided Congress.