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Live Updates: Republicans Push Party Members to Vote Against Capitol Riot Commission

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Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, at the Capitol on Tuesday. He opposes the independent commission.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Republican leaders scrambled on Wednesday to tamp down support in their ranks for bipartisan legislation creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, as the House moved toward an evening vote.

Party leaders, led by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, formally announced their opposition on Tuesday, arguing that their members should not support any accounting of the deadly pro-Trump mob that attacked Congress without also studying “political violence” on the left. Then, after initially pledging neutrality, they also began lobbying lawmakers to vote no.

Former President Donald J. Trump sought to add his own pressure, chastising Republicans to “get much tougher” and oppose the inquiry unless it was expanded to look at “murders, riots and fire bombings” in cities run by Democrats.

“Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!” he said.

But as the vote neared, top Republicans were facing the possibility of a wave of defections that threatened to once again drive a wedge through a party struggling to unite in the wake of Mr. Trump’s mendacious campaign to overturn the 2020 election. A significant splintering would be particularly embarrassing for Mr. McCarthy, who after ousting his No. 3 last week for her views on Mr. Trump, vowed to unite the party around the former president ahead of the 2022 midterms.

The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes 29 Republicans, formally endorsed the commission late Tuesday. Other Republicans privately said they were inclined to vote “yes” in a show of solidarity with Representative John Katko, Republican of New York, who negotiated the terms of the commission at Mr. McCarthy’s behest, only to have the leader turn around and trash the product.

Mr. Katko argued on Tuesday that the commission offered Congress the best chance to dispense with politics and really get to the bottom of an attack that most members of Congress witnessed themselves in horrid detail and both parties deemed a disastrous security failure.

“We both dispensed with our politics to do what the greater good is,” he said.

Modeled after the commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 10-person panel would be tasked with exhaustively studying the causes of the attack and the intelligence and security lapses that allowed thousands of pro-Trump supporters, some of them armed, to overwhelm police and overtake the Capitol, sending the then-vice president and Congress into hiding. Its work would be fast: The legislation calls for the body to produce a report, including recommendations to prevent future violence, by Dec. 31.

House Democrats are expected to unanimously back the commission, and President Biden formally endorsed it on Tuesday.

Furious over Mr. McCarthy’s furious work to undermine it, especially after they agreed to several of his key demands in negotiations, Democrats trained their fire on the leader ahead of the vote. Democratic lawmakers, and even some Republicans, speculated that Mr. McCarthy’s opposition could be driven in part by an effort to prevent damaging information about his own conversations with Mr. Trump around Jan. 6 from coming to light at a time when he is trying to help his party retake the House and become speaker.

“My humble opinion is that there’s some information that he would deem troubling for the Republican Party if it got out, and I think he will do everything possible to prevent that,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, who co-wrote the commission bill with Mr. Katko.

The commission’s fate, though, will almost certainly be decided in the Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to agree to support its formation.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, told reporters that he and other Republican senators were undecided and would “listen to the arguments on whether such a commission is needed.” During a private lunch with his members on Tuesday, Mr. McConnell stressed that if Senate Republicans banded together, they could most likely force changes to its structure, including changes to make the hiring of staff more bipartisan.

A Gaza City building destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike on Tuesday.
Credit…Khalil Hamra/Associated Press

President Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the White House principal deputy press secretary told reporters onboard Air Force One.

“Our focus has not changed,” the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said. “We are working towards a de-escalation.”

Ms. Jean-Pierre said Mr. Biden wanted the situation to reach a “sustainable calm.”

She said the call, which came before the president departed from Washington to address graduates at the United States Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday morning, did not reflect a shift in administration policy as it pertains to a cease-fire.

“This is what we have been calling for for the past eight days,” she said.

Still, the president’s call to the Israeli leader added to a growing chorus of international parties urging the Israeli military and Hamas militants to lay down their weapons as the conflict stretched into its 10th day.

France is leading efforts to call for a cease-fire at the United Nations Security Council, but it remains unclear when a resolution will be put to a vote.

Israel and Hamas have signaled a willingness to reach a cease-fire, diplomats privy to the discussions say, but that has not reduced the intensity of the deadliest fighting in Gaza since 2014.

The Israeli Army’s airstrikes have killed at least 219 Palestinians, including dozens of children, according to the Gaza health ministry. They have also destroyed homes, roads and medical facilities across the territory. Hamas militants continued to fire rockets into Israeli towns on Wednesday, sending people scurrying for shelter. The barrage from Hamas has killed at least 12 Israeli residents.

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An Israeli airstrike hit a street outside the Al-Rimal health clinic in central Gaza City Monday evening, shattering windows, shredding doors and wrecking Gaza’s only coronavirus test laboratory.CreditCredit…Photo by Hosam Salem for The New York Times

As Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations mediated talks between Israel and Hamas, the two adversaries indicated publicly that the fighting could go on for days. Mr. Netanyahu tweeted on Tuesday that the attacks against Hamas would “continue as long as necessary to restore calm to the citizens of Israel.”

A senior Hamas official denied reports that the group had agreed to a cease-fire, but said that talks were ongoing.

Still, with Israeli warplanes firing into the crowded Gaza Strip, in a campaign that Israeli officials say is aimed at Hamas militants and their infrastructure, the humanitarian crisis has deepened for the two million people inside Gaza.

The United Nations said that more than 58,000 Palestinians in Gaza had been displaced from their homes, many huddling in U.N.-run schools that have in effect become bomb shelters. Israeli strikes have damaged schools, power lines, and water, sanitation and sewage systems for hundreds of thousands of people in a territory that has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt for more than a decade. Covid-19 vaccinations have stopped, and on Tuesday an Israeli strike knocked out the only lab in the territory that processes coronavirus tests.

“There is no safe place in Gaza, where two million people have been forcibly isolated from the rest of the world for over 13 years,” the U.N. emergency relief coordinator in the territory, Mark Lowcock, said in a statement.

President Biden returning from a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan on Tuesday.
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Biden traveled to New London, Conn., on Wednesday to deliver the keynote address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s graduation ceremony, making it his first speech at a service academy since becoming president in January.

Mr. Biden’s commencement speech comes more than a month after he announced that he would pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Mr. Biden said there was no longer any justification to believe that the United States military presence could turn Afghanistan into a stable democracy.

The ceremony, which is underway, is not open to the public. The number of guests was reduced and social distancing measures were set in place, though fully vaccinated attendees do not need to wear a mask, David M. Santos, an academy spokesman, said in an email.

“We are honored to host the commander in chief as we celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2021, the future leaders of the U.S. Coast Guard,” Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, the academy’s superintendent, said in a statement earlier this month. “It will be a memorable event for our community, as well as a great opportunity to showcase the Academy and the city of New London on a national stage.”

It is the second time Mr. Biden has addressed the academy’s graduating class. He last gave the keynote address in 2013 as vice president.

“You’re graduating into a world that is rapidly changing,” Mr. Biden said at the time, pointing to environmental security threats and record-high levels of piracy and human trafficking.

A president last addressed the U.S. Coast Guard’s graduating class in 2017, when President Donald J. Trump delivered the commencement speech. Mr. Trump used much of his speech to defend himself, telling attendees that no leader in history had been treated more “unfairly” by the news media and Washington elites.

President Barack Obama gave the academy’s commencement address twice, in 2011 and 2015. He used the speech in 2015 to push for his climate-change agenda, calling it “an immediate risk to our national security.”

The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it would hear a case from Mississippi that could affect the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.
Credit…Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to hear a case about a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks could end up weakening or even overturning Roe v. Wade. Depending on the ruling, legal abortion access could in effect end for those living in much of the American South and Midwest, especially for those who are poor, according to a New York Times analysis updated this week.

In more than half of states, though, legal abortion access would be unchanged, according to the analysis, a version of which we first covered in 2019.

Both Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, left, and Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, support the Endless Frontier Act.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

An expansive bill that would pour $120 billon into jump-starting scientific innovation by strengthening research into cutting-edge technologies is barreling through the Senate, amid a rising sense of urgency in Congress to bolster the United States’ ability to compete with China.

At the heart of the legislation, known as the Endless Frontier Act, is an investment in the nation’s research and development into emerging sciences and manufacturing on a scale that its proponents say has not been seen since the Cold War. The Senate voted 86 to 11 on Monday to advance the bill past a procedural hurdle, with Democrats and Republicans united in support. A vote to approve, along with a tranche of related China bills, is expected this month.

The nearly 600-page bill has moved swiftly through the Senate, powered by intensifying concerns in both parties about Beijing’s chokehold on critical supply chains. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the risks of China’s dominance, as health care workers have confronted medical supply shortages and a global semiconductor shortage has shut American automobile factories and slowed shipments of consumer electronics.

The bill, led by Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, and Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, is the spine of a package of legislation Mr. Schumer requested in February from the chairmen of key committees, aimed at recalibrating the nation’s relationship with China and shoring up American jobs. Taken together, the array of bipartisan bills would amount to the most significant step Congress has seriously considered in years to enhance the nation’s competitiveness with Beijing.

Handy Kennedy, a farmer in Cobbtown, Ga., and founder of a cooperative of Black farmers. Debt relief approved by Congress in March aims to make amends for decades of financial discrimination against Black and other nonwhite farmers.
Credit…Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Biden administration’s efforts to provide $4 billion in debt relief to minority farmers is encountering stiff resistance from banks, which are complaining that the government initiative to pay off the loans of borrowers who have faced decades of financial discrimination will cut into their profits and hurt investors.

The debt relief was approved as part of the stimulus package that Congress passed in March and was intended to make amends for the discrimination that Black and other nonwhite farmers have faced from lenders and the Department of Agriculture over the years.

But no money has yet gone out the door.

Instead, the program has become mired in controversy and lawsuits. In April, white farmers who claim that they are victims of discrimination sued the U.S.D.A. over the initiative, writes The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport.

Now, three of the biggest banking groups are waging their own fight and complaining about the cost of being repaid early. Their argument stems from the way banks make money from loans and how they decide where to extend credit.

By allowing borrowers to repay their debts early, the lenders are being denied income they have long expected, they argue. The banks want the federal government to pay money beyond the outstanding loan amount so that banks and investors will not miss out on interest income that they were expecting or money that they would have made reselling the loans to other investors.

Bank lobbyists have been asking the Agriculture Department to make changes to the repayment program, a U.S.D.A. official said. They are pressing the U.S.D.A. to simply make the loan payments, rather than wipe out the debt all at once. And they are warning of other repercussions.

In a letter sent last month to the agriculture secretary, the banks suggested that they might be more reluctant to extend credit if the loans were quickly repaid, leaving minority farmers worse off in the long run. The intimation was viewed as a threat by some organizations that represent Black farmers.

The U.S.D.A. has shown no inclination to reverse course.

Emergent BioSolutions was awarded a $628 million contract last year to make Covid-19 vaccines but has yet to produce a single dose deemed usable by federal regulators.
Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

When Fuad El-Hibri, founder and executive chairman of Emergent BioSolutions, appears on Wednesday before a House subcommittee to explain how the company’s Baltimore plant ruined millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine, he will be questioned by lawmakers he and his employees spent tens of thousands of dollars helping to elect.

Since 2018, federal campaign records show, Mr. El-Hibri and his wife, Nancy, have donated at least $150,000 to groups affiliated with the top Republican on the panel, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, as well as Mr. Scalise’s campaigns. At least two other members of the subcommittee received donations during the 2020 election cycle from the company’s political action committee, which has given about $1.4 million over the past 10 years to members of both parties.

Members of Congress are demanding answers from the company, which was awarded a $628 million contract last year to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines but has yet to produce a single dose deemed usable by federal regulators. Along with Mr. El-Hibri, Emergent’s chief executive, Robert G. Kramer, will testify beginning at 10:30 a.m. before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which has opened a sprawling inquiry.

Democrats, led by Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the panel’s chairman, are expected to use the session to put a spotlight on the company’s relationship with Trump administration officials, including Robert Kadlec, the former assistant secretary of health and human services for preparedness and response, who had previously consulted for Emergent. Dr. Kadlec has said that he was not involved in negotiating the company’s coronavirus contract but that he did sign off on it.

Migrants wait to be processed at a migrant shelter in March, in Del Rio, Texas.
Credit…Sergio Flores for The New York Times

In a federal shelter in Dallas, migrant children sleep in a windowless convention center room under fluorescent lights that never turn off.

At another shelter on a military base in El Paso, teenagers pile onto bunk cots, and some say they have gone days without bathing.

And at a shelter in Erie, Pa., problems began emerging within days of its creation: “Fire safety system is a big concern,” an internal report noted, and lice was “a big issue and seems to be increasing.”

Early this year, children crossing the southwestern border in record numbers were crammed into Customs and Border Protection’s jail-like detention facilities. They slept side by side on mats with foil blankets, almost always far longer than the legal limit of 72 hours.

Republicans declared it a crisis. Democrats and immigration groups denounced the conditions, which erupted into an international embarrassment for President Biden, who had campaigned on a return to compassion in the immigration system.

The administration responded by rapidly setting up temporary, emergency shelters, including some that could house thousands of children. But the next crisis is coming into view.

There is broad agreement that the emergency shelters, run by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, are an improvement over the Border Patrol facilities. But interviews with children’s advocates and a review of weeks of internal reports obtained by The New York Times paint a picture of a shelter system with wildly varying conditions, some of which are far below the standard of care that the Biden administration has promised.

Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California, walks through the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington in early January, 2021.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The United States Capitol Police confirmed on Tuesday that it is conducting a criminal investigation related to a subpoena to Twitter for information about a pseudonymous account dedicated to mocking Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California.

The investigation is examining a threat made online and is still open, said a spokesman for the police force, which protects members of Congress, adding that he was unable to say more.

Little is known publicly about the case, and it was not clear whether the user of the parody Twitter account, @NunesAlt, remains under any scrutiny as part of that ongoing inquiry.

The disclosure by the Capitol Police came a day after the Justice Department unsealed court filings that disclosed that prosecutors had obtained a grand jury subpoena on Nov. 24, while President Donald J. Trump was still in office, demanding that Twitter provide identifying information about @NunesAlt.

A person familiar with the matter told The New York Times on Monday that the Biden Justice Department had withdrawn the subpoena after Twitter challenged it. On Tuesday, the department unsealed another court filing confirming that it had done so. The filing showed that prosecutors told Twitter they had dropped the subpoena on March 17.

Twitter routinely cooperates with grand-jury subpoenas. But in this case it saw the user as engaged in political commentary protected by the First Amendment, and raised the specter that the Trump-era Justice Department had abused its power to help an ally of the president.

In the filing, Twitter noted that Mr. Nunes and his lawyer had previously filed several lawsuits trying to identify people who had criticized him on social media — including the user of the @NunesAlt parody account, which calls itself Mr. Nunes’s mother and posts memes mocking him.

When Twitter pressed prosecutors for the basis of the subpoena, they said it was for a threat investigation but declined to point to anything specific @NunesAlt had posted that was threatening, the unsealed documents show. The user of that account has said that he or she made no threat.

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