President Biden on Wednesday announced new efforts to tackle gun violence and provide money to fund police departments, propelling the White House into the politically contentious debate over how to address a rise in violent crime in many U.S. cities.
The president also directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the licenses of gun dealers “the first time that they violate federal law” by failing to run background checks.
“We know that if there is a strict enforcement of background checks, then fewer guns get into the hands of criminals,” Mr. Biden said. “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with a tracing request for inspections, my message to you is this: We’ll find you, and we will seek your license to sell guns.”
Mr. Biden’s speech at the White House came amid a national reckoning over racism and policing. City leaders are grappling with dueling calls to both improve oversight of their police departments and address soaring homicide rates that administration officials fear will continue through the summer. The president, who ascended to the presidency in part by vowing to prioritize the concerns of Black voters, now must address Republicans who accuse him of being soft on crime, as well as the progressive wing of his own party that is pushing reform.
“This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities,” Mr. Biden said, as he promoted funding for police that included some appropriated through the $1.9 trillion economic rescue package that was passed in March. “Congress should in no way take away this funding.”
Mr. Biden does not feel that reforming the police and tackling crime are conflicting goals, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Tuesday. “We believe that a central driver of violence is gun violence,” she said, adding that the president “also believes that we need to ensure that state and local governments keep cops on the beat.”
On Wednesday, the administration announced that state and local governments could use their designated $350 billion of coronavirus relief funds to hire police officers to prepandemic levels, pay overtime for community policing work, support community-based anti-violence groups and invest in technology to “effectively respond to the rise in gun violence resulting from the pandemic,” according to a statement from the Treasury Department.
Biden administration officials said the president’s remarks on Wednesday aimed to build on previous executive actions, including orders meant to curb the spread of “ghost guns” easily assembled from kits, expand federal grants for police departments and direct $5 billion in his infrastructure proposal to groups that intervene with those most likely to commit violence.
The Biden administration announced earlier this week that the Justice Department would start five “strike forces” to combat gun trafficking in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and the San Francisco area.
Criminologists have reported that homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year, though overall crime figures have been down during the pandemic.
Some criminal justice advocates are concerned about the possibility that raising alarm over crime could undermine momentum to overhaul law enforcement.
“We must not overreact and we must not repeat the mistakes of the past where crime has been politicized and the solutions have been focused on trying to arrest our way out of the problem,” said Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Justice Division. “If there is a lot of jargon in that speech that feeds the tough-on-crime narrative, then yes, we have a problem.”
A bipartisan compromise on a national policing overhaul has stalled in Congress, despite Mr. Biden urging lawmakers to reach a deal by May 25, the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Democrats continue to debate reducing funding for police departments, while Republicans have seized on the “defund the police” slogan to attack them as weak on public safety.
“If they think they’re just going to pass a few gun laws and everything is going to be fine, they’re absolutely not in touch with the reality of what’s going on across our country,” Representative John Katko, Republican of New York and the ranking member of the House Homeland Security committee, told Fox News on Tuesday.
For some, Mr. Biden’s comments on Wednesday will be a reminder of his political baggage. As a senator, Mr. Biden championed a 1994 crime bill that many experts say fueled mass incarceration, prompting questions during his presidential campaign over his commitment to overhauling the criminal justice system.
Mr. Biden has resisted calls by some members of the Democratic Party to defund police departments, calling instead for using Justice Department grants to encourage them to change and eliminating sentencing disparities.
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration, her office announced on Wednesday. She will travel to El Paso with Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary.
President Biden tapped Ms. Harris to lead an effort to improve conditions in Central America to deter migration north as the administration struggled to safely process unaccompanied minors at the border earlier this year. Ms. Harris has since faced mounting questions over her absence at the border from Republicans and some moderate Democrats who have said the administration lacks a clear strategy on border security.
The visit, which was first reported by Politico, will come just days before former President Donald J. Trump is set to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has pledged to finish the border wall that became a symbol of Mr. Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda.
Ms. Harris and her aides have defended her role on migration, arguing that she is focused on addressing the poverty and persecution that force vulnerable families to leave their homes. But even during a trip to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month aimed at improving conditions in the region, she continued to face questions over her absence at the border. Her answers on the matter fueled criticism, frustrated agents tasked with responding to the surge of migrants and perplexed some within the administration.
“I’ve never been to Europe,” Ms. Harris said to the NBC anchor Lester Holt when pressed about why she had not visited the border. “I don’t understand the point you’re making.”
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, defended Ms. Harris’s comments on Wednesday. “She said in the same interview she would be open to going to the border at an appropriate time,” Ms. Psaki said.
Pressed on whether the timing of her trip had anything to do with the upcoming visit by Mr. Trump, Ms. Psaki said, “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go the border.”
The vice president’s comments to NBC distracted from her efforts to refocus attention on initiatives to combat corruption, gun trafficking and illegal border crossings. During her trip, Ms. Harris also delivered a blunt message to migrants.
“Do not come,” Ms. Harris said in Guatemala, sparking criticism from immigration advocates and progressives.
Ms. Harris committed the next day to visiting the southern border.
The Biden administration has made progress since it struggled to move thousands of migrant children and teenagers who crossed the border into shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Since the beginning of the year, more than 65,000 migrant children and teenagers arrived alone on the southern border, with record numbers arriving during the spring months. But in May, nearly 2,900 fewer migrant children arrived alone compared to a month earlier.
The Biden administration has continued to use a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule to rapidly turn away most migrants at the border without providing them a chance to apply for asylum, despite Mr. Biden’s pledge during the presidential campaign to restore a system to provide protection to migrants. The policy has been criticized by former officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, immigration advocates and the administration’s own medical consultants.
President Biden began the process of installing a new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, after the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that he had the authority to replace the agency’s director.
In light of the ruling, Mr. Biden promptly removed Mark Calabria, whom President Donald J. Trump had appointed to oversee the agency. An F.H.F.A. spokesman confirmed that Mr. Calabria’s last day would be Wednesday.
In a statement, Mr. Calabria said he respected the court’s decision and the president’s ability to remove him.
“I wish my successor all the best in fixing the remaining flaws of the housing finance system in order to preserve homeownership opportunities for all Americans,” Mr. Calabria said.
He also noted the relief that the housing agency had provided to homeowners affected by the pandemic.
Installing a new director will give Mr. Biden more control over the fate of the mortgage giants, which play an outsize role in the housing market and are central to many owners’ ability to afford homes. Fannie and Freddie do not make home loans but instead buy mortgages and package them into securities, providing a guarantee to make investors who buy those securities whole in case of default. That helps keep the cost of 30-year mortgages low.
Mr. Calabria oversaw the enactment of a number of rules seen as critical steps toward ending the federal government’s conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie, which was imposed in 2008 at the start of the financial crisis. He has also favored moves toward privatizing Fannie and Freddie.
Many housing advocates and Democrats also want to end the conservatorship but do not necessarily want Fannie and Freddie privatized.
Laurie Goodman, vice president for housing finance policy at the Urban Institute, said that with a new director at the F.H.F.A., the talk about privatization was probably over. She added that while no one liked the conservatorship, she did not expect the Biden administration to push to end it anytime soon.
“You can serve a number of public policy goals while in conservatorship,” Ms. Goodman said.
One of those goals, she said, is making it easier for people to get mortgages, particularly in low-income communities. Ms. Goodman said there could also be efforts to encourage Fannie and Freddie to promote lending to buyers of mobile homes, which can be a more affordable path to homeownership.
The Supreme Court ruling stems from a dispute between the Treasury Department and shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over $124 billion in payments the two lenders were required to make to the government in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis.
The shareholders said the law creating the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which put the two lenders into conservatorship, violated the Constitution because it insulated the agency’s director from presidential oversight.
The Supreme Court found that the president did have the power to remove the director, saying in its opinion, “The president’s removal power serves important purposes regardless of whether the agency in question affects ordinary Americans by directly regulating them or by taking actions that have a profound but indirect effect on their lives.”
The decision mirrored a ruling last year that the president could also replace the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without any legal justification.
Michael Bright, chief executive of the Structured Finance Association, a trade group that supports investors in securitized mortgages and other loans, said the court had ruled as many people had expected. Mr. Bright said a ruling in the investors’ favor would have led to the federal government’s “writing an expensive check on the part of taxpayers.”
He added that if Mr. Biden had not removed Mr. Calabria, it would have been seen as “political malpractice” in light of the court’s ruling.
President Biden announced Wednesday that he was nominating Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain, as ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme, giving the post to a longtime Republican friend as he continues to emphasize the importance of bipartisanship in a deeply divided Washington.
Ms. McCain, who participated in a video supporting Mr. Biden’s candidacy during the all-virtual Democratic National Convention last summer, was seen as a “must do” for an ambassador posting in the Biden administration, according to sources familiar with the process, and has been undergoing the vetting process for some time.
In the video, Ms. McCain spoke about Mr. Biden’s “unlikely friendship” with her husband.
“My husband and Vice President Biden enjoyed a 30+ year friendship dating back to before their years serving together in the Senate,” she tweeted before the Democratic convention. “So I was honored to accept the invitation from the Biden campaign to participate in a video celebrating their relationship.”
The U.N. mission is based in Rome.
Mr. Biden also announced on Wednesday that he was nominating Claire Cronin, a Massachusetts state representative, as ambassador to Ireland. Former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a longtime Biden friend, had taken himself out of the running for that posting because he did not want to move his family out of the country, according to people familiar with the process.
Both nominations had been long expected.
A third nominee was Jack Markell — a former governor of Mr. Biden’s home state, Delaware — who is the president’s choice for U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of ambassador.
Mr. Biden announced his first slate of ambassador nominations earlier this month, including his picks for key posts to Mexico, Israel and NATO.
But some of his selections for the most significant posts abroad — including R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer and a former ambassador to NATO, to serve as ambassador to China; Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles to serve as ambassador to India; and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago to serve as ambassador to Japan — have still not been announced, even though multiple people familiar with the process said their nominations had been finalized internally.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a Pennsylvania school district had violated the First Amendment by punishing a student for a vulgar social-media message sent away from school grounds.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for an eight-member majority, said part of what schools must teach students is the value of free speech. “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy,” he wrote. “Our representative democracy only works if we protect the ‘marketplace of ideas.’”
“Schools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” he wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
It has been more than 50 years since a high school student won a free-speech case the Supreme Court.
“The opinion reaffirms that schools’ authority over the lives of students is not boundless,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind.”
“At the same time,” he said, “the decision is intensely, almost painfully narrow, and for that reason it offers little in the way of clarity to students, educators or lower court judges.”
The case concerned Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student who had expressed her dismay over not making the varsity cheerleading squad by sending a colorful Snapchat message to about 250 people.
She sent the message on a Saturday from a convenience store. It included an image of Ms. Levy and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with a string of words expressing the same sentiment. Using a swear word four times, Ms. Levy objected to “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”
Though Snapchat messages are meant to vanish not long after they are sent, another student took a screenshot and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended Ms. Levy from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”
Ms. Levy sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds, relying on precedent from a 1969 case.
Here are other key rulings announced Wednesday by the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court, which has said that police officers do not need a warrant to enter a home when they are in “hot pursuit of a fleeing felon,” ruled on Wednesday that the same thing is not always true when the crime in question is minor.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a seven-justice majority in the case, Lange v. California, said the mere fact that someone suspected of a minor crime had fled from the police did not justify entering a home. She added that other factors could change the calculus.
“We have no doubt that in a great many cases flight creates a need for police to act swiftly,” she wrote. “A suspect may flee, for example, because he is intent on discarding evidence. Or his flight may show a willingness to flee yet again, while the police await a warrant. But no evidence suggests that every case of misdemeanor flight poses such dangers.”
The case concerned Arthur Lange, a retiree in Sonoma, Calif., who was charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, and playing music too loudly, an infraction, after an officer followed him home and used his foot to stop Mr. Lange from closing his garage door. Mr. Lange moved to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that the officer’s entry into his home had violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
In an unusual move, California did not defend a lower court’s decision in its favor and instead urged the Supreme Court to rule that only felonies justified entering a home without a warrant.
The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.
At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attacks of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol.
In court papers filed last week, prosecutors laid out seven reasons they believed Ms. Morgan-Lloyd should not have to serve time in prison. It is likely to serve as a checklist for other rioters who committed no violence and were accused of only minor crimes. Prosecutors noted that Ms. Morgan-Lloyd was not violent at the Capitol, did not plan her breach in advance, remained inside only briefly and allowed investigators to question her thoroughly about her role in the riot as well as search her cellphone.
Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also submitted a statement to the court saying that she was “ashamed” and suggested that her relatively peaceful part in the breach allowed others to do worse.
“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did,” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”
At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”
“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”
Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd agreed to pay restitution of $500 to help defray the estimated $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday formally endorsed changes to the way the military handles sexual assault cases, becoming the first secretary to do so, and told lawmakers he would recommend the revisions to President Biden.
The changes, which were recommended by a Pentagon commission that Mr. Austin convened, do not go as far as those sought by some lawmakers.
“As you know, my first directive as secretary of defense issued on my first full day in the office, was to service leadership about sexual assault,” Mr. Austin said in remarks before the House Armed Services Committee.
“In the coming days, I will present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s finding, but I know enough at this point to say that I fully support removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command,” he said. Saying he would work with Congress to make the changes, as required by law, Mr. Austin added, “We must treat this as the leadership issue it is.”
Right before Mr. Austin spoke, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a news conference that she would put a bill on the floor that would go further than what Mr. Austin was endorsing. That bill, sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, would remove all serious crimes from commanders’ hands. A similar bill has been pushed for nearly a decade by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, but she has faced pushback from the chairman and highest ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We will bring this bill to the floor, it will pass in the House. I hope that it will succeed in the Senate as, as well,” said Ms. Pelosi, who was flanked by Ms. Speier, Ms. Gillibrand and members from both parties who support the measure.
Mr. Austin’s appointed commission recommended the inclusion of a special victims crimes unit inside an independent prosecution system, which would also cover domestic violence, but not other serious crimes as Ms. Gillibrand and Ms. Speier’s measures would.
This week, several military service chiefs expressed resistance to the legislation, teeing up a potential legislative battle that Mr. Biden will likely end up having to weigh in on.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back on Wednesday against suggestions from a Republican congressman that the military was becoming too “woke,” calling such accusations “offensive” and alluding directly to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in which some veterans and active-duty members participated.
Mr. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III were testifying before the House Armed Services Committee when they were questioned about anti-extremism efforts and curriculums about race relations at service academies and beyond.
Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, asked about the teaching of “critical race theory” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and specifically a seminar called “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.”
“This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern about how divisive this type of teaching is that is rooted in Marxism,” Mr. Waltz said.
Mr. Austin, who is the nation’s first Black defense secretary, suggested that the teaching of literature concerning white rage, as Mr. Waltz had described it, “certainly sounds like something that should not occur.”
But General Milley, who is white, defended both the seminar and the broader practice of teaching service members controversial or uncomfortable ideas.
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” General Milley said.
“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” he continued, as Mr. Austin looked on. “What is wrong with having some situational understanding about the country we are here to defend?”
Noting that his having read writers like Karl Marx did not make him a communist, General Milley went on a long, impromptu disquisition on the history of racism in the military and the need for cadets and service members alike to study it.
“I do want to know,” he said. “It matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military.”
President Biden made the case for a return to a bygone era of bipartisanship on Wednesday at the funeral of his former Senate colleague John Warner, even as a disagreement over funding threatened his efforts to reach an infrastructure deal with Republicans.
Mr. Warner, a longtime senator from Virginia who died on May 25, embodied a “willingness to work across the aisle and come together in common cause,” Mr. Biden said during the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington.
“Empathy is the fuel of democracy — the willingness to see each other as opponents, not as enemies,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s how John forged consensus and made sure our system worked.”
Mr. Biden spoke as his team was meeting with legislators to break an impasse over how to pay for the huge spending he has proposed, and hours before he was set to meet with top aides at the White House to discuss legislative alternatives that would minimize the need for Republican support.
“It’s a two-track strategy,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said.
Mr. Biden’s ambitions for a large investment in the nation’s aging public works system, along with other parts of his economic agenda, hinge on what has always been the most difficult problem for lawmakers: how to pay for the spending.
A group of centrist senators have been scrounging for ways to cover nearly $600 billion in new spending that they want to include in a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.
The White House and Republicans have ruled out entire categories of ways to raise revenue. The impasse has become the subject of increasingly urgent talks between a large group of Senate Democrats and Republicans, White House officials and, at times, the president himself. Centrist Democrats in the Senate, along with Mr. Biden, have said repeatedly that they want to strike a deal with Republicans.
Among the ideas that senators have discussed in recent days are repurposing unspent coronavirus relief funds, increasing enforcement by the I.R.S. and establishing user fees for drivers, including indexing the gas tax to inflation.
Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for discussions that Ms. Psaki has said yielded progress, and top White House officials are set to meet on Wednesday evening with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Those discussions will center on infrastructure negotiations as well as a separate effort to move a large chunk of the president’s $4 trillion economic agenda through the Senate with no Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.
Among those expected to attend the meeting are Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council; Steve Ricchetti, a top adviser to Mr. Biden; Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Susan E. Rice, who leads the White House Domestic Policy Council, according to an official familiar with the plans.
House lawmakers on Wednesday began the process of considering a legislative package that would overhaul the nation’s antitrust laws in an attempt to rein in the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
Over the course of the day, members of the House Judiciary Committee are expected to vote on six bills that could block the tech giants from prioritizing their own products online, force them to break off parts of their businesses and generate more resources for the law enforcement agencies that police Silicon Valley. Skeptical lawmakers can propose amendments to the bills or oppose the measures outright.
The committee took its first vote in the early afternoon, voting in favor of a bill that would increase the amount of money companies pay government agencies when getting some mergers approved. That money could fund more aggressive enforcement of the antitrust laws, its supporters say.
The bill passed out of the committee with 29 lawmakers in favor and 12 opposed. All Democrats who were present voted in favor of the bill, and five Republicans joined them. Even though it is considered one of the least contentious of the six measures, lawmakers still debated the legislation for hours and considered multiple proposed amendments.
By late afternoon, the committee advanced a second bill, which would give state attorneys general the power to keep antitrust cases in the courts of their choice. The bill — also among the least controversial proposals, supported by members of both parties and by all attorneys generals of states and territories — would prevent corporations from moving antitrust challenges to venues that they could view as more favorable to them. The vote was 34 to 7.
Wednesday’s session is expected to continue for the whole day, potentially stretching into early Thursday.
The bills, which were introduced this month, reflect a growing concern about the power of the largest tech companies. The proposals have drawn support from members of both parties, uniting Democrats concerned about out-of-control businesses with Republicans who fear the power of online platforms to police content online.
“The digital marketplace suffers from a lack of competition,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the subcommittee focused on antitrust. “Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are gatekeepers to the online economy.”
The proposals also have their share of critics.
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff to President Donald J. Trump, said in a Fox News opinion column on Tuesday that if “you think Big Tech is bad now, just wait until Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are working in collusion with Big Government.” Some California Democrats have also grown concerned that the bills would slow the state’s economic engine.
The tech giants have mounted an aggressive campaign to block the bills. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has been calling members of Congress to express his concerns. Executives at other companies have made statements in recent days opposing the bills. And scores of groups funded by the companies have urged lawmakers to oppose the proposals.
The demise of the For the People Act — the far-reaching voting rights bill that Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday — is a crushing blow to progressives and reformers, but it opens up more plausible, if still rocky, paths to reform.
The law, known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, was full of progressive wish list measures — from public financing of elections to national mail-in voting — that all but ensured its failure in the Senate.
But there were roads not taken. Reformers did not add provisions to tackle the most insidious and serious threat to democracy: election subversion, where partisan election officials might use their powers to overturn electoral outcomes. Those concerns have only escalated over the last several months as Republicans have advanced bills that not only imposed new limits on voting, but also afforded the G.O.P. greater control over election administration.
Instead, the bill focused on the serious but less urgent issues that animated reformers at the time it was first proposed in 2019: allegations of corruption in the Trump administration, the rise of so-called dark money in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, or the spate of voter identification laws passed in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s election victories.
Originally, the bill was seen as a “political statement” or a “messaging bill,” not as the basis for a realistic legislative effort.
One narrow, yet possible avenue emerged in the final days of the push for H.R. 1: a grand bargain, like the one recently suggested by Joe Manchin III, the moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia who provoked outrage among progressives when he said he would oppose the bill in its current form.
The Manchin compromise resembles H.R. 1 in crucial ways. It does not address election subversion any more than H.R. 1 does. And it still seeks sweeping changes to voting, ethics, campaign finance and redistricting law. But it offers Republicans a national voter identification requirement, while relenting on many of the provisions that provoke the most intense Republican opposition.
Mr. Manchin’s proposal nonetheless provoked intense Republican opposition. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri derided it as a “Stacey Abrams” bill. And Mitch McConnell, the minority leader from Kentucky, appeared to suggest that no federal election law would earn his support.
The Biden administration plans to extend the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, by one month to buy more time to distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic housing aid, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation.
The moratorium, instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.
Congressional Democrats, local officials and tenant groups have been warning that the expiration of the moratorium at the end of the month, and the lapsing of similar state and local measures, might touch off a new — if somewhat less severe — eviction crisis.
President Biden’s team decided to extend the moratorium by a month after an internal debate at the White House over the weekend. The step is one of a series of actions that the administration plans to take in the next several weeks, involving several federal agencies, the officials said.
Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.
White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in some parts of the country and by other factors that have extended the coronavirus crisis.
Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Mr. Biden and the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume. “By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.
A spokesman for the C.D.C. did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Many local officials have also pressed to extend the freeze as long as possible, and are bracing for a rise in evictions when the federal moratorium and similar state and city orders expire over the summer.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced on Monday that his state had set aside $5.2 billion from federal aid packages to pay off the back rent of tenants who fell behind during the pandemic, an extraordinary move intended to wipe the slate clean for millions of renters.
Still, groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended, and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.
“The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.
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