The Justice Department sued Texas on Thursday over its recently enacted law that prohibits nearly all abortions in the state, the first significant step by the Biden administration to fight the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortion and a move that could once again put the statute before the Supreme Court.
The department argued that the law was unconstitutional because it allowed Texas to essentially prohibit abortion while technically complying with Supreme Court rulings that forbid such a ban by deputizing private parties to enforce the new restrictions.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called Texas’ enforcement mechanism “an unprecedented” effort whose “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” was to prevent women from exercising their constitutionally protected right to have abortions.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Mr. Garland said in a news conference at the Justice Department. “If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department is seeking an injunction that would prohibit enforcement of the Texas law. “It is settled constitutional law that ‘a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,’” the lawsuit said. “But Texas has done just that.”
Even though the Supreme Court declined last week to block the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, it did so without ruling on whether it is constitutional. By placing that question at the heart of its lawsuit, the Justice Department could force the high court to consider factors that might lead to a different ruling should the justices choose to hear the case.
Both opponents and supporters of the law recognize that empowering private citizens to enforce abortion bans through civil litigation has the power to fundamentally change the landscape of the abortion rights fight. The battle has rested largely on whether the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that granted women the constitutional right to the procedure, paving the way for state bans on the practice. The Texas law essentially allows a state to all but ban abortions before a legal test of that watershed case.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” Renae Eze, a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, said in a statement. “We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
Opponents of the law were heartened by the Justice Department’s lawsuit, said Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood. “We are in uncharted legal territory, a state where Roe v. Wade is no longer essentially in effect,” she said.
Ms. Richards noted that millions of women in Texas “lost the right to make their own decisions about their pregnancy” with the passage of the law.
But proponents of the law see it as necessary to preserve the ability of state legislatures to save lives, long a central piece of the conservative platform. “The fact on the ground is that there are now hearts beating in Texas that would have been stopped had this law been prevented from going into effect,” said Roger Severino, a former Trump administration official who advocates on behalf of social conservative causes.
The Justice Department lawsuit came days after the Supreme Court refused, in a 5-to-4 decision, to block the Texas legislation, which bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.
The court had stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law. But the way the law was written — allowing anyone, regardless of whether they have any connection to an abortion, standing to sue those who perform or otherwise aid in the procedure — could make it difficult to challenge in court.
That set up a major shift in the fight over abortion rights and paved a path for other states to limit access to abortion. The law also raised alarms that abortion providers would face myriad lawsuits brought by private citizens.
The Justice Department filed its lawsuit in the Western District of Texas, based in Austin. No matter how the district court rules, both sides in the lawsuit are motivated to appeal, which would send the case to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Texas law could come before the Supreme Court again in several months.
It is not a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court would again allow the Texas law to stand, said Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law professor and leading liberal constitutional scholar.
“The complaint reaches beyond Roe v. Wade to encompass a structural attack on the basic design of the extraordinary Texas law,” Mr. Tribe said. The law’s structure, he argued, is an end run around seminal cases like Marbury v. Madison in 1803, which established the Supreme Court’s power to determine whether legislation and executive acts are consistent with the Constitution.
“Even conservatives are inclined to protect the power of the federal judiciary,” Mr. Tribe said.
But Mr. Severino noted that the when the Supreme Court chose not to block the Texas law, it said that a party could not sue unless it was over an actual enforcement action that had been taken under the new law.
Mr. Garland said that Texas did not dispute that the law violates Supreme Court precedent, which bars states from preventing a woman from determining whether to terminate a pregnancy.
Rather, the Texas law effectively takes the state out of the equation. It insulates the state from responsibility by deputizing “all private citizens, without any showing of personal connection or injury, to serve as bounty hunters authorized to recover at least $10,000 per claim from individuals who facilitate a woman’s exercise of her constitutional rights,” Mr. Garland said.
“The obvious and expressly acknowledged intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review,” he added.
Mr. Garland also said that the Texas law exposed federal employees, including those at the Departments of Defense, Labor and Health and Human Services, to civil liability should they exercise their authorities related to abortion services. He argued that that made the legislation invalid, both under the supremacy clause of the Constitution that gives precedence to federal law over state law and under the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment.
Ms. Richards said that abortion rights advocates and women’s health organizations were moving quickly to assist women in Texas who were seeking abortions, including helping them leave the state if they desired. “I’m sure we’ll see in the coming weeks stories of exactly how cruel and harmful this is for people in Texas,” she said.
The Texas lawsuit is the second time that the Biden administration’s Justice Department has sued a state over a law passed by a Republican legislature that it views as unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. In June, the department sued Georgia over a sweeping voting law, alleging that lawmakers there intended to violate the rights of Black voters.
The Biden administration has made civil rights protections a priority. Beyond the lawsuits, it is also investigating whether several major city police departments, including in Minneapolis and Louisville, Ky., routinely violate the rights of people of color.
But the Justice Department has little power to combat Republican state legislatures that were emboldened by the conservative shift in the federal courts during the Trump administration. In Texas, the particularities of the law and the slow pace with which lawsuits wend through the judicial system will make it difficult for the department to protect abortion rights there in the near term.
The Supreme Court decision forced Texas abortion providers to turn patients away to comply with the new restrictions. It also raised fears that providers would face a rash of lawsuits filed by private citizens and anti-abortion groups poised to take advantage of the latitude the law grants them to sue anyone who aid or intends to aid women who seek the procedure.
The unsigned majority opinion said that the medical providers challenging the law had failed to make their case, but that the court was not ruling on whether the statute was constitutional.
Even so, it was also seen as a threat to Roe v. Wade and has invigorated advocates on both sides of the debate.
The court will soon take up a separate case that could determine whether Roe v. Wade should be overruled.
After opponents of the Texas law failed to persuade the Supreme Court to block it, Democrats and abortion rights activists pressured the Biden administration and Mr. Garland to act.
“We urge you to take legal action up to and including the criminal prosecution of would-be vigilantes attempting to use the private right of action established by that blatantly unconstitutional law,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, and 22 other House Democrats wrote in a letter to Mr. Garland this week.
Five House committees on Thursday began formally drafting their pieces of Democrats’ far-reaching social policy and climate change bill that would spend as much as $3.5 trillion over the next decade — and raise as much in taxes and other revenue boosters — to reweave the social safety net and move the country away from fossil fuels.
The products of the drafting sessions, which could take several arduous days, are to be folded into a final bill later this fall that could be one of the most significant measures to reach the House floor in decades.
“This is our moment to lay a new foundation of opportunity for the American people,” said Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in opening remarks on Thursday. “This is a historic moment to make investments that reflect what we’ve learned during the pandemic so that the American people will be healthier and our economy will be more inclusive and resilient for generations to come.”
Democrats plan to push through the legislation using a process known as reconciliation, which shields fiscal measures from filibusters and allows them to pass with a simple majority if they adhere to strict rules. The maneuver leaves the party little room for defections given its slim margins of control in Congress.
Republicans are unified in opposition to the emerging bill, and lobbyists for business and the affluent are also arrayed against it. They need only to peel away three or four House Democrats — or a single Senate Democrat — to bring the effort down.
“The last thing Americans need right now is trillions more in government spending that drives up prices, kills jobs and wastes our hard-earned tax dollars,” said Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which began drafting its hefty portion of the bill on Thursday.
The panel will start with the spending side this week before moving next week to the more difficult task of tax increases to pay for it. Among the items on its voluminous agenda: providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave (approved 24 to 19); expanding tax credits to pay for child care and elder care; raising the wages of child care workers; requiring employers to automatically enroll employees in individual retirement accounts or 401(k) plans; and expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision and hearing benefits.
At least one Democrat on that committee, Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, warned that she would not support advancing the individual pieces out of the Ways and Means Committee until she could read that legislation in full. The menu of tax increases, for example, likely won’t be released until this weekend, as Democrats privately haggle over the scope.
“I don’t think it’s asking too much to want to see this Ways and Means bill in its entirety before voting on any part of it,” Ms. Murphy said, later joining Republicans in voting against the paid family and medical leave section of the legislation. “I think that’s asking for the absolute minimum — especially when we are proposing to create or change programs that will affect my constituents at every stage of their lives.”
The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the bill, also under consideration on Thursday, would make prekindergarten universal for 3- and 4-year-olds; fund two years of tuition-free community college and increase the value of Pell Grants; provide money to rebuild and modernize school buildings; expand job training programs; and extend child nutrition programs bolstered on an emergency basis during the pandemic.
The Committee on Natural Resources, which has partial purview over climate change programs, will try to raise the fees for fossil fuel companies that explore and drill on public lands and waters; expand leasing of offshore sites for wind energy; spend up to $3.5 billion on a new civilian and tribal climate corps; and boost funding for wildfire control, climate resilience and adaptation to a warmer planet.
Smaller pieces of the bill will be drafted by the science and small business committees.
Senate Democrats, who are expected to skip the public drafting phase, have been meeting behind closed doors to try to work out their version of the bill and bring it directly to the floor. They will have to reconcile their proposals with their House counterparts, particularly over the implementation and duration of certain programs.
Aides from both parties are expected to meet with the Senate’s top rule enforcer on Friday to debate a proposal that would legalize several groups of undocumented immigrants, including those who were brought to the country without authorization when they were children. It is up to the parliamentarian to determine whether that measure — and any others singled out by Republicans — qualify under Senate rules to be included in the final bill, which is supposed to be restricted to policies that directly affect government revenues.
President Biden on Thursday used the full force of his presidency to push two-thirds of American workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, reaching into the private sector to mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing. Mr. Biden also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse
The sweeping actions, which the president announced in a White House speech, are the most expansive actions he has taken to control the pandemic since he assumed the presidency in January, and will affect almost every aspect of American society. They also reflect Mr. Biden’s deep frustration with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for the shots but have not been vaccinated.
“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Mr. Biden declared from the White House state dining room, with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln looming over his shoulders. “We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the work force that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”
Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now moving more aggressively than any president in modern history to require vaccination, experts say.
Also on Thursday, he ordered mandatory vaccination for nearly 300,000 educators in the federal Head Start Program. He announced that he would use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of rapid testing kits and would work with retailers including Amazon and Walmart to expand their availability. And he said the Transportation Security Administration would now double fines on passengers who refuse to wear masks, among other steps.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay — and by the way, show some respect,” Mr. Biden said, in a reference to angry airline passengers who refuse to mask up.
Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now waging an aggressive effort that will also put pressure on private businesses, states and schools to enact stricter vaccination and testing policies as the Delta variant continues its spread across the United States.
Mr. Biden is acting through a combination of executive orders and new federal rules. Under his plan, private sector businesses that have 100 or more employees will have to require vaccination, or mandatory weekly testing, for their workers after Mr. Biden instructs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft a rule. Roughly 17 million health care workers employed by hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement will also face strict new vaccination requirements, as will federal workers and contractors.
OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, oversees workplace safety, which experts say extends to vaccine mandates. The agency has issued other guidelines for pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment, provide adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.
Slightly more than half of Americans, 53 percent, are now fully vaccinated. While the number of people seeking shots ticked up considerably in August, as Delta caused virus cases to soar, the vaccination rate has yet to help the nation across the threshold of “herd immunity” — the tipping point that occurs when widespread vaccination, coupled with natural immunity, slows the spread of a virus. If it continues to spread, officials fear that it will mutate into another, even more dangerous variant that evades vaccines.
“When you have 75 to 80 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, who don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to have a dynamic of continual smoldering spread of the infection,” Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned in an interview, adding, “It’s very frustrating, because we have the wherewithal within our power to be able to actually suppress it.”
The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that, aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.
If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, Ms. Psaki said, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which she said would include progressive disciplinary action. At least one major labor union challenged the mandate even before Mr. Biden delivered his speech.
Cathie McQuiston, a deputy general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing some 700,000 federal workers, said in an interview that her organization would be working with agencies to “not skip over procedures and make sure employees have due process” if they were disciplined.
Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.
WASHINGTON — When President Biden nominated David Chipman to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in March, he described it as an important step toward ending the “embarrassment” and “epidemic” of gun violence in America.
But on Thursday, conceding that he could not muster the 50 votes to get the nomination through the Democratic-controlled Senate, Mr. Biden stood down. It was a stunning defeat for his gun-control agenda and a major victory for the gun lobby, which had campaigned for months against the nomination.
The president had hoped that the outrage over mass shootings this year in Atlanta; Indianapolis; San Jose, Calif.; and Boulder, Colo., would generate enough political support to give A.T.F., the agency that enforces federal gun laws, its first permanent leader in nearly a decade.
Instead, Mr. Biden’s retreat followed a familiar pattern for Democrats — including former President Barack Obama — who have been repeatedly foiled in their efforts to enact even broadly popular gun-control efforts after massacres in schools, nightclubs and stores.
“We knew this wouldn’t be easy,” Mr. Biden said in a statement announcing his decision to abandon the nomination of Mr. Chipman, a former A.T.F. agent known for his blunt denunciations of the gun lobby. “But I have spent my entire career working to combat the scourge of gun violence, and I remain deeply committed to that work.”
However, many of the president’s legislative proposals — including closing loopholes in the national background check system, eliminating exemptions given to gun manufacturers in civil liability cases and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — have been blocked in the evenly divided Senate.
Mr. Biden, who chose Mr. Chipman under pressure from former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and other gun-control proponents, needed the support of all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats and the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to get Mr. Chipman confirmed.
In recent weeks, Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, told Biden administration and leadership officials that he could not support the nomination, citing blunt public statements that Mr. Chipman had made about gun owners, people familiar with the situation said.
Even a phone call from Mr. Biden last month asking Mr. King to drop his objections — and reminding the senator that Mr. Chipman was himself a gun owner — was not enough to save the nomination, according to a senior administration official.
Over the past few days, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who had originally suggested he was open to the pick, told the White House that he had also soured on the selection, Democratic aides said.
“I knew this confirmation process would be difficult,” Mr. Chipman said in a statement, “and while ultimately we weren’t successful, it remains essential that A.T.F. is led by a confirmed director who is accountable to the public and places no special interests before the safety of our children and our communities.”
In his comment, Mr. Biden was careful not to call out either senator, whose votes he needs to pass his budget bill and other legislation. “While my administration has worked to strengthen law enforcement and crack down on gun crime,” he said, “Republicans have opposed us at every turn.”
But Mr. Chipman’s supporters have long been concerned that the White House, preoccupied with cutting a bipartisan infrastructure deal for much of the spring and summer, had not pushed back hard enough against a coordinated effort by the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations to portray the nominee as a radical bent on undermining Second Amendment rights.
“We needed 50 Democrats; that didn’t happen, so simply blaming Republicans obscures the fact that the gun industry’s influence goes far beyond the Republican base and into the Democratic Party,” said Igor Volsky, the founder of Guns Down America, a nonprofit advocacy group that has called on Mr. Biden to appoint a national gun violence coordinator. The White House has resisted the move.
“What I find disappointing is the president isn’t offering a plan of how we go forward from here,” Mr. Volsky added. “That’s really surprising from a president who said that stopping gun violence was a priority during the campaign.”
During a contentious confirmation hearing in May, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee seized on Mr. Chipman’s comments about gun owners, including an interview in which he had likened the buying of weapons during the coronavirus pandemic to a zombie apocalypse.
Mr. Chipman’s nomination deadlocked in the committee but was reported to the Senate for a floor vote through a parliamentary maneuver. It never received one.
It is Mr. Biden’s second high-profile nomination to be withdrawn for lack of Democratic support. In March, Neera Tanden, his pick to head the budget office, pulled out of contention after an uproar over her caustic public statements. She was later hired as a policy adviser in the West Wing.
Gun safety groups, which supported Mr. Biden during the 2020 election, saw Mr. Chipman’s nomination as the most significant step the president could take during his first term, aside from his proposal to crack down on the proliferation of ghost guns, which are homemade firearms produced from kits, without serial numbers, and devised to evade federal regulation.
“A Senate-confirmed director is integral to the president’s plans and would have been the most consequential of his actions to date,” said T. Christian Heyne, the vice president for policy with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control group that supported Mr. Chipman’s selection.
As hopes for Mr. Chipman’s confirmation waned this summer, White House officials began to discuss bringing him into the administration as an adviser, but no decisions had been made, according to a person involved in the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The administration has no immediate plans to appoint a new nominee.
As recently as last month, the White House signaled that it was standing by its nominee, praising Mr. Chipman’s 25 years of experience as an A.T.F. agent but also acknowledging the confirmation battle he faced.
Mr. Chipman spent over 20 years as a special agent, serving in the agency’s Detroit field office and Washington headquarters. Over the past few years, he has worked as a consultant to gun control organizations founded by Ms. Giffords and Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
Mr. Biden’s team believed they had an ideal candidate in Mr. Chipman, who combined the technical expertise and street smarts of a veteran agent turned gun-control advocate.
“You know, we’re fortunate that, you know, Gabby was shot with a handgun,” Mr. Chipman said on a podcast in 2019, discussing the 2011 attack in which Ms. Giffords was shot in the head and six people died. He added that she would not have survived if she had been shot by an assault rifle.
In the 48 years since its mission shifted primarily to firearms enforcement, the A.T.F. has been weakened by relentless attacks from the N.R.A. Critics have argued that made it an agency engineered to fail.
Fifteen years ago, the N.R.A. successfully lobbied to make the director’s appointment subject to Senate confirmation and has subsequently helped block all but one nominee from taking office.
Republicans, in coordination with gun lobbyists, have successfully blocked the appointment of all but one permanent appointee to head A.T.F. over the past 15 years, a losing streak Mr. Biden’s team had hoped to end.
At the N.R.A.’s behest, Congress has limited the bureau’s budget; imposed crippling restrictions on the collection and use of gun-ownership data, including a ban on requiring basic inventories of weapons from gun dealers; and limited unannounced inspections of gun dealers.
Mr. Chipman’s critics hailed his defeat as a major victory for gun rights.
“Mr. Chipman’s long record as a partisan, anti-Second Amendment activist raised plenty of concerns about how he’d administer federal firearms laws,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and a vocal critic of Mr. Chipman, said in a statement. “The employees of A.T.F. and the American people deserve an A.T.F. director who carries out the mission of the agency with respect for the Constitution and for all agency employees.”
Annie Karni contributed reporting.
President Biden will travel to California on Monday to campaign for Gov. Gavin Newsom, adding yet another volley of national Democratic firepower to the governor’s effort to beat back a Republican-led effort to recall him.
The president will appear with Mr. Newsom in Long Beach for a final rally as the recall winds down to a Sept. 14 voting deadline. Vice President Kamala Harris appeared with the governor in Oakland on Wednesday and former President Barack Obama recorded a campaign advertisement released this week.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar stumped for the governor over Labor Day weekend, and Senator Bernie Sanders is featured in a television ad that has been in heavy circulation throughout the state.
Throughout the summer, Mr. Newsom’s allies in California privately complained that national Democrats were not paying sufficient attention to a race that, though it initially had seemed a long shot, has nationwide implications. Just weeks ago, Mr. Newsom appeared to be precariously on the edge of being recalled, but polls and ballot returns now suggest he is pulling ahead.
According to Political Data, Inc., which provides election data, nearly a third of the electorate had voted as of Thursday morning — the result of pandemic voting rules that sent mail-in ballots to all 22 million active and registered voters in California. More than twice as many Democrats have returned their ballots than Republicans so far — although many Republicans may be waiting to cast their votes in person.
The governor has also struggled to connect with the state’s large and growing corps of Latino voters, many of whom have said they are ambivalent about both Mr. Newsom and the Democratic Party. So far, just 20 percent of Latino voters have returned their ballots, compared with 36 percent of white voters.
Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach tweeted that he was looking forward to welcoming the president and the governor to his city on Monday. Mr. Garcia is the first Latino and openly gay man to lead the city of nearly half a million people and was tapped last year to speak to the Democratic National Convention.
Seeking to turn out the state’s massive Democratic base in an off-year special election, Mr. Newsom has portrayed the recall effort as one led by right-wing extremists seeking to seize power in the nation’s largest liberal stronghold. Luminaries in his camp have included not only nationally known Democrats, but also celebrities such as Katy Perry and George Lopez, who have reached out on their social media accounts.
He has found a rich target in the leading candidate to oppose him, the conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who has said employers should be able to ask women about their reproductive plans and has vowed to immediately lift all pandemic mandates if he is elected governor.
Banished from social media and deprived of his national platform, former President Donald J. Trump has been clamoring for attention and trying to exploit the series of foreign and domestic crises that are testing the Biden administration.
This week has been one of his most frenetic periods yet.
As Mr. Trump seeks to pounce on President Biden’s handling of the military withdrawal in Afghanistan, he has highlighted the deaths of American service members in an attack at the Kabul airport, going so far as to contact several family members of those killed, The Washington Post reported.
At the same time, Mr. Trump undercut his patriotic solemnity with the announcement that he would spend the evening of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks providing commentary at a boxing match at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. (Mr. Trump’s team has not yet revealed plans to commemorate the anniversary in any other way.)
And Mr. Trump continued to stoke the country’s racial divisions, issuing an almost ostentatiously provocative statement denouncing the removal on Wednesday of a towering statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, in Richmond, Va.
Praising Lee as a brilliant strategist and statesman, Mr. Trump speculated that, “except for Gettysburg,” Lee “would have won the war.” He added: “If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago.” Mr. Trump also called Lee “perhaps the greatest unifying force after the war was over.”
Lee, whose leadership of Southern forces prolonged the Civil War, has long been held up as a hero of the Lost Cause, which celebrates the pro-slavery Confederacy’s secession from the United States in a conflict that left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead.
Gregory Downs, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, said Lee was not the unifying postwar force that Mr. Trump suggested he was. While Lee accepted defeat, Dr. Downs said, he also actively resisted the terms under which a meaningful reunion could take place and spoke against granting basic rights for Black people. “He is somewhere between an active campaign against a just reconciliation and a passive resistance,” the professor added.
Mr. Trump’s allies have increasingly floated the possibility that he will jump early into the 2024 presidential campaign, though predicting the volatile former president’s moves has always been risky.
This week, Mr. Trump announced that he intended to return to Iowa in October for a rally, visiting a state that presidential hopefuls often frequent given its importance in the early stages of a campaign cycle.
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who speaks to him regularly, said last week that he expected a Trump bid, though Mr. Trump has been unwilling to commit publicly when pressed in recent interviews.
A sweeping Florida law that cracked down on “public disorder” is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, temporarily blocking the law’s enforcement.
Judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee wrote that the law violates the First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly and the 14th Amendment rights to due process.
The law, passed by the Republican-controlled State Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, in April, was intended to toughen existing anti-rioting penalties, its authors have said. But in his 90-page ruling, Judge Walker said the new statute was overbroad and vague to the point that it could curtail constitutionally protected peaceful protests.
“If this court does not enjoin the statute’s enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians,” he wrote.
In a news conference on Thursday, Mr. DeSantis said the state would appeal to a more conservative federal appeals court in Atlanta.
“We will win that on appeal, I guarantee you,” he said.
Mr. DeSantis and other state officials were sued by the N.A.A.C.P. Florida conference, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward and other groups. They argued that the law, which was a reaction to demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last year, targeted protests by Black people and other minorities.
Judge Walker drew a line from an anti-riot statute that was used in Florida in the 1950s and 1960s to suppress protests against Jim Crow laws.
“What’s past is prologue,” he wrote.
House Democrats want to use their $3.5 trillion social policy bill to create a new program to provide health coverage to an estimated 2.2 million poor Americans who lack insurance, closing a gap in the coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Draft legislation to be considered next week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would help Americans in the so-called “Medicaid gap” — those who cannot access state-run Medicaid coverage, but earn too little to qualify for federal subsidies — buy insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. The plan would be part of the far-reaching reconciliation bill that Democrats plan to push through under budget rules that shield it from a filibuster and allow it to pass on a simple majority vote.
Democrats in Congress had intended to offer Medicaid coverage to this population when they passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. But the Supreme Court ruled two years later that Congress could not require states to expand their programs to cover poor adults. Since then, most states have opted to.
Democrats had pledged to include a solution for this population, in 12 mostly Southern states that did not expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, as part of their emerging legislative package, but details had been scarce. While the Energy and Commerce proposal may not become law as written, it provides a glimpse into how Congress may provide the coverage.
The program would be set up in two phases. In the early years, poor adults in the Medicaid gap states would qualify for subsidies to buy marketplace plans. Those subsidies would be high enough that people would have the option of a free health plan with minimal cost sharing.
Starting in 2025, according to a fact sheet released by the committee, Congress would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to build a new Medicaid-like program for this population. That approach would give them coverage that is more similar to the insurance they would have received if their states had expanded the program in the traditional manner.
Emerging evidence from states that already expanded their Medicaid programs has shown that the government health program for poor Americans can make a measurable difference in their health and financial security. Medicaid coverage has been linked to lower levels of debt, fewer complications from serious diseases, and even fewer deaths.
Setting up such an initiative may be complicated. Medicaid programs are generally run by state governments with oversight from federal regulators. The new Medicaid program would be one of several that lawmakers hope to establish with the legislation. The Energy and Commerce outline, like draft legislation from the Ways and Means Committee, would also establish new programs to provide hearing, vision, and dental benefits to Medicare beneficiaries.
The proposal would also require states that have already expanded Medicaid to continue offering coverage to poor adults, an effort to prevent states from dropping their programs to allow their residents to use the new program instead.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to strike down the proxy voting system adopted by the House of Representatives last year to allow for remote legislating during the pandemic.
Mr. McCarthy’s appeal came after a federal appeals court tossed out a lawsuit he filed against Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California seeking to invalidate the voting system, the first in history to allow members of Congress to cast votes in the House without being physically present.
In that July ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously agreed that courts did not have jurisdiction under the Constitution to wade into the House’s rules and procedures. The decision upheld an earlier ruling by a Federal District Court and was endorsed by judges nominated by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump, suggesting a broad consensus on the issue.
But House Republicans have continued to press the matter despite the setbacks, casting the remote voting rules as a political “power grab” by Democrats designed to pad their razor-thin majority — though 97 Republicans have also adopted the practice in recent months, as remote voting has become a tool of personal and political convenience for lawmakers.
“Although the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself,” Mr. McCarthy said in a statement, “including the requirement to actually assemble in person.”
House Democrats implemented the special rules in May 2020, allowing lawmakers who were not present to designate other members as proxies who would cast their votes according to specific instructions. They have argued that the changes are necessary for safety reasons, given the danger of traveling in a pandemic and the need for social distancing. They have also noted that a number of Republican lawmakers have refused to share their vaccination status or wear masks in the crowded rooms of Congress.
It is unclear how long the measure, which was presented as a temporary one, might last.
Republicans, led by Mr. McCarthy, quickly filed suit. They argued that the nation’s founders had intended for Congress to meet in person, and argued that the proxy voting system violated constitutional principles. They have also promised to immediately return to normal voting procedures if they retake the majority next year.
The system, which has also allowed members of Congress for the first time to conduct remote committee hearings and file bills electronically, has been used by lawmakers in both parties for purposes other than its intended one. Some members have used remote voting to save them the hassle of traveling from their districts to Washington, while others have used it to be able to cast a vote while attending political events. And it has served the interests of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can ill afford absences in Democratic ranks given her slim majority in the House.
Former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday endorsed a primary challenger to Representative Liz Cheney, aiming to oust one of his fiercest Republican critics in a race that will test whether his influence over the party’s base remains strong enough to end her family’s political dynasty in Wyoming.
Mr. Trump threw his support behind Harriet Hageman, a former Republican National Committee official and a 2018 candidate for governor in Wyoming, in a bid to consolidate his supporters behind a single rival to the incumbent congresswoman.
The former president has for months taken an especially keen interest in defeating Ms. Cheney in the Wyoming race next year. She voted to impeach him over his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, and has accused him of undermining democracy with his unwillingness to accept the results of the 2020 election.
Ms. Cheney’s outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump — a rarity in her party — caused a deep rift with her Republican colleagues in the House, and in May they removed her as their No. 3 in the conference. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ms. Cheney had once been seen as a rising G.O.P. star, but she was replaced by Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a formerly moderate Republican who has become a Trump loyalist in recent years, in the House leadership.
This summer, Mr. Trump has met with potential challengers to Ms. Cheney at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Some of his advisers fear that multiple viable challengers to Ms. Cheney would fracture the opposition and allow her to survive the 2022 race.
Ms. Hageman stepped down this week from her post as a committeewoman on the Republican National Committee.
In his statement endorsing Ms. Hageman, Mr. Trump said that she “adores the Great State of Wyoming, is strong on Crime and Borders, powerfully supports the Second Amendment, loves our Military and our Vets, and will fight for Election Integrity and Energy Independence (which Biden has already given up).”
Mr. Trump made plain his dislike of Ms. Cheney’s criticism of him in the news media, saying it was necessary to replace the Democrats’ “number one provider of sound bites, Liz Cheney.”
The endorsement drew complaints even before it was official. Catharine O’Neill, who writes for the conservative website Newsmax and was considered another potential candidate — and who tweeted a picture of herself with Mr. Trump last month — wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “The Republican Establishment creeps around Trump are really bad. They are pushing him to make bad decisions, because they still don’t understand why Trump won in 2016. Sad.”
Mr. Trump has announced two upcoming rallies, in Iowa and Georgia, and has issued a spate of endorsements this month, often taking aim at fellow Republicans who have crossed or displeased him.
In Michigan, he endorsed a state legislator, Steve Carra, who is challenging Representative Fred Upton, another Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. In Washington State, he is backing Joe Kent, a veteran running against Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, another Republican supporter of the former president’s impeachment.
Ms. Cheney has been bullish about her chances against a pro-Trump Republican challenger. “Bring it on,” she said on the “Today” show in May.
The Biden administration on Thursday endorsed an aggressive proposal to limit prices for prescription drugs, calling for the government to negotiate with drug makers on prices and applying those prices not just to Medicare but to all drug purchasers in the country.
The proposal, published as a 29-page white paper from the Department of Health and Human Services, was included a range of recommendations to foster more competition among drugmakers and improve the affordability of drugs for patients enrolled in Medicare.
The administration cannot make such large changes on its own; it amounts to a signal to congressional Democrats. Democratic leaders in Congress have suggested that they hope to regulate prices in some way as part of the $3.5 trillion legislative package now being considered.
The House passed a bill with similar provisions in 2019, but senators working on the package have released few policy details as they wrestle with their approach.
Steve Ubl, the C.E.O. of the industry trade group PhRMA, called the policy “an existential risk to the industry.” Major across-the-board price reductions would result in reduced revenues for drug companies, and could hurt companies’ ability to spend on research as well as cause smaller companies to close if investors leave the sector, he said. His group and the companies it represents have mobilized to fight such a plan.
Drug price regulation represents a crucial piece of the still-developing Democratic package because it is one of the few proposed policies that could reduce, rather than increase, federal spending.
Any policy that substantially reduces drug prices has the potential to save the government a lot of money. The federal government pays a large share of drugs for patients with Medicare, and subsidizes insurance plans that purchase drugs for other Americans.
This new approach could help fund other expensive priorities, such as expanding Medicare benefits to cover dental care, and providing insurance coverage to uninsured people in states that have not expanded Medicaid. An approach that lowers drug prices less would leave less funding available for those other goals.
High prescription drug prices are a major consumer issue, one that voters consistently identify as a top concern. Reducing their prices could matter for many American households.
But broad price controls like the one endorsed by the white paper could encounter both political and logistical problems.
The pharmaceutical industry has long opposed government price negotiations of any sort in the United States, and some Democratic lawmakers are sympathetic to their concerns that price restrictions could stymie innovation and hamper future drug development.
Security officials at the Capitol plan to reinstall a fence around the complex ahead of a planned rally of Trump supporters next weekend called to demand the release of those arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 mob attack on Congress.
The Capitol Police Board is slated to approve a request from Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, who joined the force in the aftermath of the deadly attack, to restore the fence before the “Justice for J6” rally scheduled for Sept. 18, because of concerns that hundreds might attend, including some extremist groups, according to a person familiar with the board’s discussions.
The barrier, erected after a mob of President Donald J. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, had been removed in July, reopening public accessibility to the complex.
“We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday. “What happened on Jan. 6 was such an assault on this beautiful Capitol, under the dome that Lincoln built during the Civil War.”
The “Justice for J6” rally is being organized by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, and his organization, Look Ahead America, which has demanded that the Justice Department drop charges against what the group calls “nonviolent protesters” facing charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.
About 140 police officers were injured, including 15 who were hospitalized, and several people died in connection with the riot, including officers who took their own lives in the months after responding to the assault.
Some officers suffered brain injuries; one officer had two cracked ribs, two shattered spinal discs; and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake, according to the union that represents the Capitol Police.
Mr. Braynard has argued the brutal attacks on police officers during the assault were the work of a “few bad apples” and accused the Biden administration of targeting the “peaceful Trump supporters who entered the Capitol with selective prosecutions based on their political beliefs.”
Some Republicans who have sought to downplay the seriousness of the riot or spread conspiracy theories about who was responsible have expressed sympathy for suspects arrested afterward, vowing to fight for their release.
“We are closely monitoring Sept. 18 and we are planning accordingly,” Chief Manger said in a statement last week. “After Jan. 6, we made departmentwide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar said Thursday that she had been diagnosed and treated this year for breast cancer, and that her doctors said in August that her treatment had been successful.
“At this point my doctors believe that my chances of developing cancer again are no greater than the average person,” Ms. Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, wrote in a post on Medium.
Ms. Klobuchar, 61, said she learned in February that she had Stage 1A cancer after doctors at Mayo Clinic found “small white spots called calcifications during a routine mammogram.”
She said that she underwent various tests and she subsequently had a lumpectomy on the right breast to remove the cancer. In May, she said she completed radiation treatment.
She said that doctors determined in August that the treatment had been successful.
“Of course this has been scary at times,” Ms. Klobuchar said. Adding, “Cancer is the word all of us fear.”
The senator said she was lucky it was caught early and that she had delayed having a mammogram.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast cancer screenings for women who are 45 to 54 years old. Women who are 55 and older should be screened every two years, according to the society.
“It’s easy to put off health screenings, just like I did,” she wrote. “But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through.”
Ms. Klobuchar, the chairwoman of the Rules and Administration Committee, said she underwent treatment while the committee investigated the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and convened hearings on the new voting restrictions imposed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in Georgia and other parts of the country.
On Thursday, Ms. Klobuchar said on ABC’s Good Morning America that she had radiation two days after her father, Jim Klobuchar, died.
Ms. Klobuchar, who said her husband took her to her radiation treatments, said that her Senate colleagues did not know she had cancer.
“It’s something that no one wants to hear and no one wants to experience,” she said of the illness. “In the end, I just have this unbounding gratitude for the people that were there for me.”
The White House pushed out several prominent Trump administration appointees from their posts on the advisory boards of U.S. military service academies, administration officials said on Wednesday.
The Biden administration was seeking to ensure that nominees and board members were “qualified to serve on them” and “aligned” with the president’s values, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a White House briefing. Chris Meagher, a White House spokesman, later confirmed that all of the appointees “either resigned or has been terminated from their position.”
Eighteen Trump appointees were asked to resign. They included former White House officials such as Kellyanne Conway, President Donald J. Trump’s counselor; Sean Spicer, his first White House press secretary; Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s second national security adviser; and Russell T. Vought, a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under Mr. Trump.
Several of them posted screenshots on social media of the letters they said they had received from the White House on Wednesday requesting that they resign by 6 p.m. or be removed from their positions.
Ms. Conway, one of Mr. Trump’s most prominent White House aides, wrote a letter refusing to resign from her advisory position at the Air Force Academy.
“President Biden, I’m not resigning, but you should,” she wrote on Twitter, with an image of her letter.
“Three former directors of presidential personnel inform me that this request is a break from presidential norms,” Ms. Conway wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Mr. Biden. “It certainly seems petty and political, if not personal.”
Other Trump appointees were similarly defiant. Mr. Vought also declined to resign as a member of the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy, noting on Twitter that members serve three-year terms. He was appointed to the board in December.
Advisory boards to the military service academies are a mix of lawmakers and presidential appointees who advise and oversee the institutions on matters including morale, discipline and curriculum. Presidential appointees serve for three years.