President Biden will meet at the White House on Monday with a group of federal and local leaders to promote his administration’s strategy to combat an alarming rise in gun violence, kicking off a week in which he will focus on trying to shore up several domestic priorities that are confronting daunting challenges in Congress.
Unveiled late last month, Mr. Biden’s plan largely encourages jurisdictions across the country to do what they can to bring down crime as hopes for federal legislation grow dim. It includes urging local agencies to draw on $350 billion in funds from his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to support law enforcement. Mr. Biden has also directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to more quickly revoke the licenses of gun dealers who fail to run background checks.
But as the White House seeks to combat a surge in violence — homicides rose 30 percent and gun assaults 8 percent in large American cities last year — the issue is politically freighted for Mr. Biden.
Republicans have accused him of being soft on crime. But as a presidential candidate, he declined to embrace calls from the progressive wing of his own party to defund police departments after police shootings of African Americans. And as president, he has called for more investment in law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Biden has called on Congress to pass measures that would close background-check loopholes, restrict assault weapons and repeal gun manufacturers’ immunity from lawsuits, but there is little appetite for a bipartisan gun control effort. And David Chipman, Mr. Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, faces slim odds as his confirmation process drags on. Mr. Chipman, a two-decade bureau veteran, has a record of taking on the gun lobby in confrontational and unapologetic terms.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden will travel to Philadelphia to promote another embattled element of his domestic agenda: He is scheduled to “deliver remarks on protecting the sacred, constitutional right to vote,” according to the White House.
After an expansive effort to overhaul the country’s voting laws failed in the Senate, the White House has turned to civil rights groups and advocacy organizations to try to ratchet up political pressure from communities that will be most affected by a Republican-led effort to roll back voting protections in many states.
Although Mr. Biden’s advisers say he is deeply committed to the issue, he is now focusing on finding ways forward that do not necessarily rely on Congress. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the administration’s efforts to expand voting rights, said last week that the Democratic National Committee would invest $25 million in voter outreach and litigation.
Such efforts would appear to fall far short of the changes and protections in the Democrats’ voting legislation. But despite holding several meetings with Democrats and civil rights groups, Mr. Biden, a Senate traditionalist, has avoided discussion on rolling back the filibuster, the legislative mechanism requiring a supermajority in the Senate that Republicans used to block the voting bill.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden will turn to yet another domestic topic that needs his attention: a centrist infrastructure proposal that, after lengthy negotiations with Republicans, amounts to about 40 percent of what he had proposed to spend for broadband, electric vehicles and water infrastructure. Mr. Biden will meet at the White House with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors to highlight the particulars of the plan.
That proposal and a companion bill in which Democrats plan to address their other economic priorities will face difficult paths through Congress, given the party’s narrow majorities and the sheer ambition of the legislation.
The Senate will return to Washington on Monday from a two-week recess facing a pile of complicated legislative work and key deadlines looming in the push to enact President Biden’s far-reaching economic agenda.
Democratic leaders have mapped out a monthlong sprint for senators, warning them to prepare for late nights, weekend work and even the cancellation of part of their beloved August recess to set up final passage of their priorities in the fall. The House does not return until next week, but will face a similar time crunch when it does.
Their goal is to simultaneously advance two hulking bills before the summer break: a bipartisan investment in roads, bridges, high-speed internet and other infrastructure projects; and a far larger and more partisan package that would include tax increases on corporations and the rich to fund an expansion of the social safety net and programs to fight climate change. If successful, the July sprint would set up Congress to pass both bills into law when it returns to work in September.
“We are proceeding on both tracks very well,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Sunday. “I was on the phone all weekend talking to all kinds of different people and legislators about moving forward on those tracks, as well as with the White House and the president, and we’re moving forward.”
But given the sheer ambition of the legislation — the two bills together could spend $3 trillion or much more — and Democrats’ narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, the task will not be easy. One or both bills could stall or fall apart as Democratic leaders try to placate both a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats who struck a rare bipartisan agreement on traditional infrastructure spending, as well as their more progressive Democratic members, who are pushing for a more ambitious package focused on education, child care, taxes, health care and the environment.
After reaching an agreement to spend $579 billion in new money on infrastructure projects last month, the bipartisan group of senators spent much of the extended July 4 recess turning their framework into real legislation that they believe can with 60 votes in the Senate and pass the Democratic-led House. Key Senate committees are expected to begin moving parts of that bill this week, and Mr. Schumer has said he expects a vote by the full Senate before leaving in August. It remains to be seen if he can consolidate the votes needed to pass it.
Work on the other legislative package, which Republicans have signaled they will oppose, is progressing more slowly. Democrats are prepared to pass it using a budget maneuver known as reconciliation that would allow them to get around a Republican filibuster. But that means the party will most likely have no votes to spare in the Senate, and its moderate and progressive wings will have to reach agreement on what to include and how much to spend.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont progressive who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is pushing for up to $6 trillion in spending, and told The New York Times last week that a proposal by moderates to spend one-third of that or less was “much too low.”
Those differences will have to be resolved quickly. Mr. Schumer wants the Senate to hold a vote on a budget resolution mapping out the reconciliation spending before the Senate leaves town. Action in the House could follow.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The top American general in Afghanistan stepped down on Monday, a symbolic moment as the United States nears the end of its 20-year-old war and Taliban fighters sweep across the country.
At a muted ceremony at U.S. and NATO military headquarters in Kabul, Gen. Austin S. Miller ended his nearly three-year term as commander. His duties will be filled by two officials. Rear Adm. Peter G. Vasely, a former member of SEAL Team 6, will take charge of the security mission at the United States Embassy in Kabul. He will report to Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, who will take over the broader military mission in Afghanistan.
“It’s important to me to say farewell,” General Miller said. The ceremony, which lasted less than an hour, was attended by high-ranking Afghan officials, including Abdullah Abdullah, who is leading peace negotiations. “Our job is now not to forget,” General Miller said.
General McKenzie, who arrived in Kabul on Monday, spoke afterward, assuring those present that the Americans were not abandoning the Afghan people in such dire times.
“It’s not the end of the story,” General McKenzie said. “It’s the end of a chapter.”
General Miller oversaw a military campaign aimed at keeping the Taliban at the negotiating table and the Afghan forces unified in the face of political uncertainty.
Despite thousands of airstrikes, increased civilian casualties and short-term tactical gains, it is unclear how successful the U.S. military effort was: The final agreement between the insurgent group and the United States in February 2020 clearly favored the Taliban, and the Afghan government was completely cut out of the deal.
The Taliban have seized control of more than 160 of the country’s roughly 400 districts in the last two months, and hundreds of Afghan troops have surrendered, giving up their U.S.-supplied equipment and fleeing, sometimes into neighboring countries. Key provincial cities in both the north and south are under siege, and Afghan government counterattacks have had limited success.
After spending the weekend huddled in the halls of an ancient Venetian naval shipyard, the top economic officials from the Group of 20 nations on Saturday formally threw their support behind a proposal for a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent, Alan Rapaport reports from Venice for The New York Times.
Under the plan, each country will adopt new rules requiring large global businesses, including technology giants like Amazon and Facebook, to pay taxes in countries where their goods or services are sold, even if they have no physical presence there.
“After many years of discussions and building on the progress made last year, we have achieved a historic agreement on a more stable and fairer international tax architecture,” the finance ministers said in a joint statement, or communiqué, at the conclusion of the meetings.
The plan would be the most significant overhaul of the international tax system in decades, cracking down on tax havens and imposing new levies on large, profitable multinational companies.
The plan could reshape the global economy, altering where corporations choose to operate, who gets to tax them and the incentives that nations offer to lure investment. But major details remain to be worked out ahead of an October deadline to finalize the agreement and resistance is mounting from businesses, which could soon face higher tax bills, as well as from small, but pivotal, low-tax countries such as Ireland, which would see their economic models turned upside down.