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Politics News Live Updates: McCarthy Sets Wednesday Vote on Ouster of Liz Cheney

Representative Elise Stefanik of New York is seeking to become the No. 3 House Republican.
Credit…Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, on Monday defended his move to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the party’s No. 3 leader, portraying the purge of the most powerful Republican critic of Donald J. Trump as the forward-looking move of a “big tent party.”

In a letter to colleagues announcing a Wednesday vote to “recall” Ms. Cheney, Mr. McCarthy said her ouster was necessary to overcome “internal divisions” that could derail the party’s efforts to reclaim the House majority in 2022. Even as he argued for getting rid of Ms. Cheney, who has angered others in the G.O.P. with her refusal to stay silent in the face of Mr. Trump’s election lies, Mr. McCarthy insisted that Republicans “embrace free thought and debate.”

“Each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future,” Mr. McCarthy wrote. “If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts on our collective team.”

The statement was an attempt to pre-emptively deflect criticism of a messy intraparty conflict that Mr. McCarthy is well aware could alienate some voters who are eager to move past Mr. Trump and his false election claims. It also threatens to undermine the party’s efforts to avoid talking about the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by a mob inspired by the myth of a stolen election.

The letter came a day after Mr. McCarthy officially endorsed Representative Elise Stefanik of New York to replace Ms. Cheney. Despite initially running for Congress as a mainstream Republican moderate, Ms. Stefanik became one of Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders in the House, and in recent months has revived his false election claims, which have become a central element of her campaign to replace Ms. Cheney.

While Ms. Stefanik has emerged as a favorite of party leaders to serve in the No. 3 post, there were signs on Monday that hard-right Republican lawmakers might not be willing to go along. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has promoted Mr. Trump’s false charges of a stolen election and said before the riot that Jan. 6 was a “1776 moment,” wrote on Twitter that Republicans should take “a break before we vote on a replacement.”

“Options are good and so are conservative votes,” wrote Ms. Greene, who elevated violent conspiracy theories before she was elected to Congress. She echoed the concerns of some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who have privately groused that Ms. Stefanik only recently became a Trump acolyte.

But Mr. McCarthy was working to paper over the rifts.

“We represent Americans of all backgrounds and continue to grow our movement by the day,” he wrote. “And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Ms. Cheney does not plan to contest the recall vote, but she has promised to sharpen her argument that fealty to Mr. Trump will ultimately drag down the Republican Party. A small but outspoken coterie of Republicans is providing backup.

“Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and the party’s 2012 nominee for president, warned on Twitter.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, pointed out that Mr. McCarthy had initially said Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the Capitol riot — only to later insist that others stop talking about it.

“She is being run out for one thing: her consistency,” Mr. Kinzinger said of Ms. Cheney during a National Press Club event on Monday. “You cannot unite with lies.”

Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, suggested that House Republicans were trying to silence Ms. Cheney for her beliefs.

“It’s OK to go ahead and express what you feel is right,” she told reporters at the Capitol. “Cancel culture is cancel culture, no matter how you look at it.”

Holding tanks operate by Colonial Pipeline in Woodbine, Md., on Monday. The company said it hoped to have a pipeline that carries petroleum from the Texas Gulf Coast to New York Harbor running again by the end of this week.
Credit…Drone Base, via Reuters

President Biden said on Monday that the United States would “disrupt and prosecute” a criminal gang of hackers called DarkSide, which the F.B.I. formally blamed for a huge ransomware attack that has disrupted the flow of nearly half of the gasoline and jet fuel supplies to the East Coast.

The F.B.I., clearly concerned that the ransomware effort could spread, issued an emergency alert to electric utilities, gas suppliers and other pipeline operators to be on the lookout for code like the kind that locked up Colonial Pipelines, a private firm that controls the major pipeline carrying gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the Texas Gulf Coast to New York Harbor.

The pipeline remained offline for a fourth day on Monday as a pre-emptive measure to keep the malware that infected the company’s computer networks from spreading to the control systems that run the pipeline. So far, the effects on gasoline and other energy supplies seem minimal, and Colonial said it hoped to have the pipeline running again by the end of this week.

According to intelligence officials, all of the indications are that the episode was simply an act of extortion by the group, which first began to deploy such ransomware last August, and is believed to operate from Eastern Europe, possibly Russia.

Mr. Biden, who is expected to announce an executive order in the coming days to strengthen America’s cyberdefenses, said he planned to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia soon and he suggested Moscow bore some responsibility because DarkSide is believed to have roots in Russia and the country provides a haven for cybercriminals. Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin are expected to hold their first summit next month.

On Monday, DarkSide argued it was not operating on behalf of a nation state, perhaps in an effort to distance itself from Russia.

“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” said a statement posted on DarkSide’s website. “Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.”

Colonial’s pipelines feed large storage tanks up and down the East Coast, and supplies seem plentiful, in part because of reduced traffic during the pandemic. Colonial issued a statement on Monday saying its goal was to “substantially” resume service by the end of the week, but the company cautioned that the process would take time.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Mr. Biden’s homeland security adviser and a former deputy secretary of energy in the Obama administration, said that the Energy Department was leading the federal response and had “convened the oil and natural gas and electric sector utility partners to share details about the ransomware attack and discuss recommended measures to mitigate further incidents across the industry.”

Receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a mass vaccination site in East Hartford, Conn., last month.
Credit…Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States, a crucial step in the nation’s steady recovery from the pandemic and a boon to tens of millions of American families eager for a return to normalcy.

The authorization caps weeks of anticipation among parents, who have been grappling with how to conduct their lives when only the adults in a household are immunized. It removes an obstacle to school reopenings by reducing the threat of transmission in classrooms, and affords millions of adolescents the opportunity to attend summer camps, sleepovers and get-togethers with friends.

“This is great news,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “It feels like we’ve been waiting a long time to start protecting children in this age group.” The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already available to anyone over 16.

The F.D.A.’s go-ahead is not the final hurdle. An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet shortly to review the data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in 12- to 15-year-olds.

If the committee endorses the vaccine for that age group, as expected, immunizations in theory could begin immediately. Clinical trials have shown that these children may safely receive the dose already available for adults.

In a clinical trial, Pfizer and BioNTech enrolled 2,260 participants ages 12 and 15 and gave them either two doses of the vaccine or a placebo three weeks apart. The researchers recorded 18 cases of symptomatic coronavirus infection in the placebo group, and none among the children who received the vaccine, indicating that it was highly effective at preventing symptomatic illness.

The vaccine also appeared to be safe for these children, with side effects comparable to those seen in trial participants who are 16 to 25 years old. Fevers were slightly more common among inoculated 12- to 15-year-olds; about 20 percent of them had fevers, compared with 17 percent in the older age group.

The trend toward more fevers at younger ages was consistent with observations in an earlier trial, said Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer and a pediatrician.

The trial results were a “trifecta” of good news, Dr. Gruber added: “We have safety, we got the immune response we wanted — it was actually better than what we saw in the 16- to 25-year-old population — and we had outright demonstration of efficacy.”

The company is still gathering information on potential asymptomatic infections by continuing to test the trial participants for the coronavirus every two weeks and checking them for antibodies produced in response to a natural infection, according to Dr. Gruber.

The push to immunize children may run into the same problems with hesitancy that have plagued attempts to inoculate adults. In one recent poll, just over half of parents said they were likely to have their children get a vaccine as soon as one was authorized.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, said she had “zero safety concerns” about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, noting that hundreds of millions of people worldwide have received it.

Her 12-year-old daughter is eager to be vaccinated, and her 9-year-old son will be immunized as soon as he is eligible, she said.

“The risk of your child catching Covid and getting really sick is low, but it’s not zero,” she said. “And the risk of them getting sick or hospitalized or worse with Covid or with the post-Covid multi-inflammatory syndrome is higher than the risk of something bad from this vaccine.”

Vaccinating children shields others in the community from the virus, she noted, including people who are not protected by the vaccine, such as organ transplant recipients, cancer patients and those with impaired immune responses.

“It also protects all of us from the virus continuing to spread and mutating further,” Dr. Ranney said. “That’s the thing that I’m most scared of right now.”

Pfizer and BioNTech began testing the vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 in March and extended the trial to even younger children, ages 2 to 5, last month. The companies next plan to test children who are 6 months to 2 years old.

Assuming trial results are encouraging, the companies expect to apply to the F.D.A. in September for emergency authorization to administer the vaccine to children ages 2 to 11.

Results from trials of Moderna’s vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds are expected in the next few weeks. Findings from another trial of the company’s vaccine in children 6 months to 12 years old should be available in the second half of this year.

AstraZeneca is testing its vaccine in children 6 months and older. Johnson & Johnson plans to wait for results from trials in participants older than 12 before testing its vaccine in younger children.

Jan Hoffman contributed reporting.

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference on Monday. If his plan for a state tax rebate is approved, it would be the largest in U.S. history.
Credit…Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group, via Associated Press

Riding a breathtaking and exquisitely timed $75.7 billion surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday proposed putting $600 in the pockets of two-thirds of California taxpayers in a state rebate that if approved would be the largest in U.S. history.

The proposal, one in a series the governor plans to make this week in his annual budget revision, takes advantage of a remarkable turnaround in the state’s financial picture that comes not only as California emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, but also as Mr. Newsom works to defuse an expected recall election.

Mr. Newsom’s motivation is not entirely political: Rebate payments are required by May 2023 under the provisions of a 1979 state spending limit. That law, passed by voters as part of a tax revolt that swept the state, calls for a taxpayer rebate if per capita spending, adjusted to account for growth, exceeds a certain level for two consecutive years.

In less than a year, the state’s financial picture has swung from bust to boom, thanks largely to California’s tax system, which relies heavily on the kind of higher-income workers who were able to work from home and thus keep their jobs during the pandemic.

The state cashed in not only on income taxes but on taxes on capital gains from the booming stock market as investments made affluent Californians wealthier and as a number of California-based start-ups went public. That rebound, along with a $26 billion infusion of federal stimulus money, sent the state budget soaring.

“California is not just back — California is roaring back,” Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said on Monday in a news conference in Oakland, where he appeared with the chairs of the state budget committees and ignored questions about the recall.

California was among many states that initially predicted that the pandemic would be catastrophic for budgets, but many of those projections have become less dire in recent months. A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that more than 30 states have revised their revenue forecasts upward from the start of the pandemic, allowing some to revisit cuts they previously made.

A handful, including Idaho, have proposed their own form of stimulus or tax relief, but none approximating the scope and scale of Mr. Newsom’s plan.




‘Moving in the Right Direction,’ Biden Says of Economic Growth

On Monday, President Biden gave an update on the economic outlook for the country after a disappointing monthly jobs report on Friday. The president maintained in his speech that economic growth was continuing, despite pandemic losses.

As we learned Friday, the economy created 266,000 jobs in April. In fact, altogether, since the time we took office, we’ve created more than 1.5 million jobs in the country. It’s the most jobs created in the first 100 days of any president on record. We’re moving in the right direction. So let’s be clear: Our economic plan is working. I never said, and no serious analyst ever suggested, that climbing out of the deep, deep hole our economy was in would be simple, easy, immediate or perfectly steady. Remember, 22 million Americans lost their jobs in this pandemic. So some months will exceed expectations, others will fall short. The question is: What is the trend line? Are we headed in the right direction? Are we taking the right steps to keep it going? And the answer clearly is yes.

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On Monday, President Biden gave an update on the economic outlook for the country after a disappointing monthly jobs report on Friday. The president maintained in his speech that economic growth was continuing, despite pandemic losses.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden ordered the Labor Department on Monday to ensure that unemployed Americans cannot draw enhanced federal jobless benefits if they turn down a suitable job offer, even as he rejected claims by Republicans that his weekly unemployment bonus is undermining efforts to get millions of Americans back to work.

Stung from a weekend of criticism over a disappointing April jobs report, Mr. Biden struck a defiant tone, seeking to make clear that he expects workers to return to jobs if they are available, while defending his signature economic policy effort thus far and blaming corporate America, in part, for not doing more to entice people to go back to work.

The president told reporters at the White House that child care constraints, school closures and fears of contracting the coronavirus had hindered job creation last month, and he challenged companies to help workers gain access to vaccines and to raise their pay.

“The last Congress, before I became president, gave businesses over $1.4 trillion in Covid relief,” Mr. Biden said. “Congress may have approved that money, but let’s be clear: The money came from the American people, and it went from the American people to American businesses, many of them big businesses, to help them get through this pandemic and keep their doors open.”

He added, “My expectation is that, as our economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments.” He said that if they did, “they’ll find plenty of workers, and we’re all going to come out of this together better than before.”

Mr. Biden also promised more relief was working its way into the economy through measures created by the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” that the president signed into law in March. That includes help for child care providers and aid for state and local governments that Treasury Department officials began to make available on Monday.

Mr. Biden is trying to win support for even more federal spending, including a $2.3 trillion jobs proposal centered on physical infrastructure.

Republicans have criticized Mr. Biden for the disappointing jobs numbers. In particular, they blamed a provision in his rescue plan that extended a $300-per-week federal supplement for unemployed Americans for discouraging Americans from returning to work.

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said on Monday that Mr. Biden was “all over the place” on the issue.

“He wants to go after folks who are gaming the system, but he’s denying the reality that his policies are making the situation worse, so he’s trying to make struggling businesses the boogeymen,” Mr. Sasse said in a news release. “Here’s the deal: Bad federal policy is making unemployment pay more than work, and millions of jobs aren’t getting filled.”

Supporters of L.G.B.T.Q. rights protested outside the White House in 2017.  
Credit…Justin Gilliland/The New York Times

The Biden administration announced on Monday that health care providers could not discriminate against transgender individuals, the latest step in President Biden’s efforts to restore civil rights protections for L.G.B.T.Q. people that were eliminated by his predecessor.

Under the new policy, the Department of Health and Human Services will once again prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by health care organizations that receive federal funding.

The move will reverse a policy adopted by H.H.S. under President Donald J. Trump that said anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 did not apply to transgender people. That move had been hailed by social conservatives and harshly criticized by gay rights supporters.

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Xavier Becerra, Mr. Biden’s health secretary, said in a statement. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including L.G.B.T.Q. people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is part of a broader effort by the president to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people — and particularly transgender individuals — in protections against discrimination. In his first address to a joint session of Congress last month, Mr. Biden pledged his support for the Equality Act, which would broaden civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people: You’re so brave,” Mr. Biden said in his speech. “I want you to know your president has your back.”

Administration officials said the new policy was based on a ruling by the Supreme Court last summer in which the justices said that civil rights laws protected L.G.B.T.Q. workers from employment discrimination.

The health agency’s new approach does not cover employment, but officials cited the Supreme Court’s decision as support for the change. They said the department’s Office of Civil Rights would interpret the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions to include “(1) discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; and (2) discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

The new interpretation will apply to “covered health programs or activities,” which includes doctors, hospitals and other health care organizations that receive public funding.

“The mission of our department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the department’s assistant secretary for health and the Biden administration’s most senior transgender official.

“All people need access to health care services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health and screen for cancer risk,” she said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Credit…Associated Press/NORC

President Biden enjoys widespread job approval, as Americans’ optimism about the future continues to climb, according to a poll released Monday by The Associated Press and NORC.

Sixty-three percent of Americans said they approved of the work Biden was doing as president, while just 36 percent disapproved. That spread of 27 percentage points represents the widest approval margin in an A.P./NORC poll since Mr. Biden took office.

The president continued to receive broadly positive marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with seven in 10 respondents expressing approval. His approach to health care policy got a thumbs-up from 62 percent of Americans, and 54 percent approved of his work on foreign policy.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans said they approved of the job he was doing on the economy, while just 42 percent disapproved — although the poll was conducted from April 29 to May 3, before the administration released a disappointing April jobs report showing that the country was missing its targets on employment.

With migrants continuing to arrive at the southern border in high numbers, the poll found that just 43 percent of Americans approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of immigration. Fifty-four percent disapproved.

But for the first time in A.P./NORC polling going back four years, a majority of Americans said that the country was headed in the right direction — possibly driven in part by the decline in coronavirus cases nationwide.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said things were going right in the country, while 44 percent said things were on the wrong track. That shift is being fed by a rise in optimism among political independents: Nearly half of them said that things were moving in the right direction, according to the poll.

Since January, the A.P./NORC poll has consistently found at least six in 10 Americans approving of the president’s job performance, putting it on the more Biden-friendly end of the polling spectrum. (NORC polls are conducted using its probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, with most respondents completing the survey online and a small number contacted by phone.) But polling averages consistently show Mr. Biden’s approval rating over 50 percent.

Roman Khan, at a refugee camp in Pakistan, holding a photograph of his brother Asadullah Haroon Gul, who is challenging his detention by the United States at Guantánamo Bay.
Credit…Abdul Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Justice Department lawyer said in federal court on Monday that, even as the Pentagon is withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, the United States can continue to detain a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, because of his past association with members of Al Qaeda.

“We remain at war with Al Qaeda,” the lawyer, Stephen M. Elliott, said in U.S. District Court in Washington in a case brought by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. military since 2007.

The hearing was the first in a Guantánamo habeas corpus case since President Biden took office. The administration’s defense of Mr. Haroon’s detention appeared identical to the positions taken by previous administrations, despite Mr. Biden’s order to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and his stated ambition to close the Guantánamo prison.

Mr. Haroon, who is about 40, was captured by Afghan forces while serving as a commander of the Hezb-i-Islami militia, which fought the American and allied invasion of Afghanistan along with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

His lawyers argue that his war ended in 2016 when the militia made peace with the U.S.-allied Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. The foreign ministry of Afghanistan has filed a brief in the case seeking his return.

From left, Eliana Lord, Carly Mihovich, Stephanie Justice and Nick Hansen, visiting from Columbia, S.C., took a photo at Lafayette Park on Monday.
Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Portions of Lafayette Square, the park in the shadow of the White House, reopened on Monday, more than 11 months after violent clashes there between protesters and law enforcement.

The park, which sits on the north side of the White House, had been fenced off to the public in June, days after William P. Barr, then the attorney general, ordered officials to clear the park of people protesting the police killings of George Floyd and other Black men. Shortly after the authorities used riot-control methods to disperse the protesters, President Donald J. Trump strode across Lafayette Square to pose in front of a church that had been damaged by fire the evening before.

In the months after the conflict, black metal fencing that had been quickly erected around the park became an impromptu memorial and art space.

On Monday, the Secret Service did not say why the park had been opened to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“In protecting the White House and its residents, the U.S. Secret Service acknowledges that the surrounding area can be a powerful symbol of our nation and our democracy, and the agency is committed to balancing necessary security measures with the importance of public access and view,” the agency said in a statement. “Due to the need to maintain operational security, we do not discuss the specifics of security fencing or other operational means and methods.”

The National Park Service referred questions to White House officials, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pennsylvania Avenue, the thoroughfare that separates the White House from the park and is usually populated by tourists, protesters and government employees, remains closed.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, had said that President Biden wanted the wide security perimeter around the complex to be reduced.

“Our goal, the president and the vice president’s goal, is for the Secret Service to adjust the perimeter as soon as it makes sense from an overall security standpoint,” Ms. Psaki said in early February. “So we’re working closely with them on that, and they are — of course, would be in the lead on that front.”

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