Political News

Democrats lash out at Biden administration over handling of Haitian migrants

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(WASHINGTON) -- Even as the Biden administration makes progress toward dispersing the large group of mostly Haitian nationals gathered in Del Rio, Texas, government officials are facing internal divisions over how the migrants have been treated.

"As we speak out against the cruel, the inhumane, and the flat out racist treatment of our Haitian brothers and sisters at the southern border we cannot and we must not look away in this moment," Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley said Wednesday.

Joined by a growing chorus of Democratic leaders in Congress, Pressley was referring to the striking images of Border Patrol agents on horseback confronting migrants and snapping their reins aggressively.

Some Democrats are also calling on the Biden administration to immediately stop repatriating the Haitians back to their island nation, citing concerns about safety. As of Wednesday afternoon, officials report there were just over 5,547 migrants left in the encampment under an international bridge in the South Texas town of Del Rio, as the Biden administration scrambles to track, process and remove the group that at one point ballooned to more than 14,000 people.

"Despite the Administration’s rapid deployment of personnel and resources in response to this crisis, much of the strategy to address the care of these vulnerable individuals is deeply concerning," Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson and Gregory W. Meeks said in a joint statement on Wednesday. "Specifically, we urge the Administration to halt repatriations to Haiti until the country recovers from these devastating crises."

The Department of Homeland Security has a limited number of options after agents encounter unauthorized migrants in the border region. Some are referred to ICE custody for detention or deportation while many are released to U.S. resettlement organizations and given a future date to report or appear in court.

DHS extended temporary protections for Haitian nationals over the summer. But it only moved the deadline to apply to July 29. That means those who have arrived more recently do not qualify for the Temporary Protected Status designation even if they fled Haiti before the deadline, and thay are subject to removal under what's called Title 42.

"We have looked at the country conditions and made a determination that in fact we can return individuals who've arrived," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

DHS provided a statement to ABC News Wednesday evening saying removal flights from Texas to Haiti will continue, noting that more than 1,000 migrants have already been flown back.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has rapidly expelled hundreds of thousands of migrants from the U.S. under a decades-old part of the public health code known as Title 42. These expulsions have gravely concerned immigrant advocates who say the process cuts off access to the humanitarian protections some migrants are due.

Immigration officials have cited the protocols as a necessary tool in managing the migration challenges, but resources on the border have remained strained and agents have been pushed to their limits in an attempt to manage the influx in Del Rio.

At the same time, images of the tactics used by Border Patrol agents on horseback have stirred outrage from Democrats, with some drawing connections to extremist views.

"Congress must do the work of investigating and ensuring accountability of the egregious and white supremacist behavior of border patrol agents in Del Rio Texas," Pressley said at the Wednesday press conference.

Mayorkas addressed the images of the horse mounted patrol at the beginning of Wednesday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing and reiterated that the agents in question won't be interacting with migrants while the agency investigates.

"The facts will drive the actions that we take," Mayorkas said. "We ourselves will pull no punches, and we need to conduct this investigation thoroughly, but very quickly."

He said he expects the investigation to wrap up "in days and not weeks."

Mayorkas was pressed again Wednesday about providing data that explains what has happened to migrants after they've been arrested or detained by border officials. When asked repeatedly by Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, he declined to provide specifics or estimations, citing concerns over accuracy.

"Congressman, I want to be precise in my communication of data to the United States Congress and to you specifically having posed the question," Mayorkas said.

White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki was also questioned Wednesday on the lack of information coming out of DHS about where the Haitian nationals are ending up, including how many have been released into the U.S.

"I certainly understand why you're asking and understand why people have been asking Secretary Mayorkas," Psaki said. "Those are numbers that are -- the secretary -- the Department of Homeland Security would have the most up-to-date numbers."

"But why is it so hard to keep track of a simple number like that?" asked ABC News White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega. "Why can't you give it? Why can't he give it? It’s been two days now he's been asked that."

"I'm certain they will provide it. It's an absolutely fair question to ask, and I'm certain he just wanted to have the most up-to-date numbers to provide," Psaki responded.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Mayorkas on Tuesday, expressing her concerns about the treatment of migrants at the hands of agents for Border Patrol, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas promised her an update on the investigation into the incident involving Border Patrol agents on horseback and said the department is taking its obligations to provide humanitarian support seriously, according to a readout of the conversation from the vice president's office.

ABC News’ Kenneth Moton, Luke Barr, Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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House committee probing Jan. 6 attack could subpoena Trump aides: Sources

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol could issue its first subpoenas in the coming days, possibly targeting several former high-level aides to President Donald Trump for records and information, sources tell ABC News.

Former GOP congressman and Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House aides Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller are among those of interest to the committee, sources familiar with the matter have told ABC News.

Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale, who, like the other aides, remains close to the former president, could also be subpoenaed by the panel, sources said.

Sources also said that John Eastman, a lawyer who worked with Trump's legal team last year, could also be subpoenaed for records and testimony by the committee.

Eastman was the author of a controversial memo obtained by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results on Jan. 6 to keep Trump in office by rejecting the electors in nearly a dozen states.

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters on Monday that the first subpoenas could be issued "within a week."

Lawmakers were briefed on the status of the probe by committee staff for more than five hours Monday night in the Capitol, meeting in person for the first time in weeks to walk through the complex inquiry via PowerPoint slides.

Thompson said the committee has scheduled testimony with persons of interest, but would not say who those people are and whether they have officially accepted the invitations from the committee.

Committee investigators are in the process of reviewing thousands of pages of documents obtained in response to requests issued in recent weeks to federal government agencies and 35 social media and communications companies.

The panel has also requested documents from the National Archives, which maintains and preserves White House records. National Archives officials said they're in the process of reviewing the request and have yet to turn over any documents to the committee for their review.

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Biden tries to salvage agenda threatened by Democratic infighting

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday worked to salvage his sweeping legislative agenda as Democratic infighting imperiled his ambitious goals on infrastructure, climate change, and Americans' relationship with government into peril.

The president planned to host a series of Democratic congressional leaders and factions at the White House, with the goal of pushing two pieces of legislation to the finish line: the bipartisan $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate but faces challenges in the House, and a potentially much larger bill with hundreds of billions of dollars for "human infrastructure" -- funding for child care, eldercare, universal preschool, free community college, combating climate change, and a host of other Democratic priorities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters late Tuesday that she intends to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor next week -- as early as Monday -- for consideration, but it’s unclear if and when the lower chamber will vote on the bill.

Pelosi and Democratic leadership have urged their entire caucus to support the bill, despite the fact that the $3.5 trillion bill is still weeks away from completion and progressives have said they won’t support the bipartisan bill unless the larger social bill is passed. Historically, Pelosi is loath to put a bill on the floor that will fail, so leadership must decide soon how they intend to play this.

Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who met with Pelosi on Tuesday for 90 minutes in her office and is expected to meet with Biden later Wednesday -- told ABC News that more than half of her caucus, which stands at nearly 100 members, is ready to tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the larger progressive bill isn’t ready by next week.

Meanwhile, moderate Democrats in both houses of Congress oppose some specific items in the larger bill -- which Biden calls his "Build Back Better agenda" -- as well as its overall price tag. They've threatened to tank that bill if significant changes aren't made to it -- changes the progressives adamantly oppose.

“Our belief is that it's not, it's not a random number, it's about what we are putting into the bill and what we're willing to take out. So if there are people who say they want a smaller bill, are they going to take out childcare or are they going to take out housing or are they going to take out climate change efforts? What is it that we're going to take out? For us, it's never been a $3.5 trillion bill. It’s a $0 bill, because there was plenty of money to pay for the entire thing,” Jayapal told ABC News.

With his agenda at risk, Biden hosted Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Wednesday afternoon, followed by Democratic moderates from both chambers -- including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have expressed opposition to the larger spending bill. Later in the afternoon, he planned to meet with Jayapal and other progressives from both the House and Senate, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the White House said.

Returning from the White House later Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters that Democrats' plan to hold the physical infrastructure bill vote early next week was still “on schedule.”

“We are calm and everybody’s good and our work is almost done,” she said, when asked about the larger bill.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega that it was not a make-or-break moment for Biden's spending proposals.

"I would never describe it that way," Psaki said Wednesday. "But I would say, look, this is an important moment where we're in the pivotal period of our negotiations and discussions."

Psaki said Biden was holding three separate meetings -- rather than one -- because "this is a messy sausage-making process." She said he "sees his role as uniting and as working to bring together people."

"The president's bringing people of a range of viewpoints on big, important packages that are going to make their lives better here to the White House to have a discussion about it," she said. "He's rolling up his sleeves. He's walking them to the Oval Office, he'll have some COVID-safe snacks."

Late Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he hoped Biden was "the secret sauce."

“The president of the United States is always a very influential figure, and I know he wants both bills passed," Hoyer told reporters.

Biden senior adviser Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, traveled to the Hill to meet with House Democrats Wednesday afternoon, too.

Manchin has said for months he believes there should be a “strategic pause” before Congress takes up the reconciliation bill, citing his concerns about spending. His opposition to the price tag runs in tandem with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Either one of them could tank the progressive bill from becoming law.

Separately, progressives are insisting that a pathway to citizenship is included in the bill. The Senate parliamentarian dealt a blow to Democrats late Sunday after ruling that immigration reform does not have a direct budgetary impact and therefor could not be included in the reconciliation bill.

Schumer and other Democrats expressed deep disappointment and vowed to continue fighting for new pathways to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

The messy legislative fight carries high stakes with next year's midterms looming and the president hoping to chalk up a major win Democrats can point to as his approval sags after a much criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

John Podesta, an influential Democrat who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, sent a memorandum to the office of every Democratic member of Congress on Tuesday, warning them to pare back the $3.5 trillion bill -- or risk losing control of Congress.

Podesta said he “wholeheartedly” supported that bill -- and actually thought it should “do even more" -- but that "the political reality is clear" and that Democrats "will not secure the full $3.5 trillion investment."

He called on Democrats to unite, saying progressives should accept a smaller price tag, and that moderates must swallow the other package in addition to the physical infrastructure deal they support. Doing nothing, he said, would fail Americans and could mean the end of Democratic control on Capitol Hill.

“It would signal a complete and utter failure of our democratic duty, and a reckless abdication of our responsibility,” Podesta wrote.

Meanwhile, Biden must also contend with a looming possible government shutdown on Oct. 1. Democrats in the House passed a short-term spending bill late Tuesday that would punt the shutdown fight to Dec. 3. The legislation also provides billions in aid for emergency disaster relief and Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit to December 2022.

But Senate Republicans have vowed to block any legislation that would lift or suspend the debt limit.

Senate Republicans say they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are currently crafting -- even though the debt limit does not authorize new spending and is instead paying off previous debt, much of it incurred during the Trump administration.

Senate Democrats have countered that they have lifted the debt limit with Republicans under the Trump administration on multiple occasions and say it's a bipartisan responsibility.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an "economic catastrophe."

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.

"Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans’ help with raising the debt limit. I’ve explained this clearly and consistently for over two months," McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier this week.

Biden has often touted the deal-making skills he honed over decades in the Senate, and the next few days will put his abilities to the test.

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FDA authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine boosters for people 65 and older, other at-risk groups

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer booster shots Wednesday for seniors and other high-risk Americans, paving the way for third doses to be offered as early as the end of the week.

The decision would allow for anyone over the age of 65 to get a booster, as well as people as young as 18 if they have a medical condition that puts them at risk of severe COVID-19 or if they work a frontline job that makes it more likely that they would get infected.

FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said that list should include health care workers, teachers and grocery story workers, as well as people in prisons and homeless shelters.

"This pandemic is dynamic and evolving, with new data about vaccine safety and effectiveness becoming available every day," Woodcock said in a statement. "As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed."

The deliberation follows a recommendation last week by the FDA's independent scientific advisers that, while protection from vaccination is strong, immunity probably wanes after six months and is important to replenish for certain high-risk groups.

The advisory panel, called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said last Friday there wasn't enough evidence yet to recommend every vaccinated adult get a third dose.

Instead, the panel recommended the extra shot for those 65 and older or at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine exactly which populations are eligible.

The FDA's vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, framed the booster debate as one "based on complex data sets evolving in front of our eyes," but with key information still incoming on how boosters will impact a wider age group, the panel ultimately indicated current data has yet to mature enough to recommend boosters for all.

"We need safety data for younger populations and we need to really know what the benefit is," Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News Friday. "So far we've got some reasonable data for older people, but I really think that there are too many questions on the younger populations."

Currently, only immunocompromised Americans are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. An estimated 2 million people have received a third mRNA based vaccine from the two manufacturers. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have also asked the government to agree to booster shots for a larger population, and those requests are pending FDA review. FDA decisions are expected within the coming weeks.

If and when the career scientists at the FDA decide to sign off on boosters, the Pfizer vaccine can be labeled and administered as a three-dose vaccine for certain groups.

But before delivering the shots, the CDC will need to issue official recommendations.

A separate independent panel that advises the CDC is set to meet Wednesday for presentations and then again on Thursday to discuss the data in more granular detail before a vote.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is then expected to weigh in by the end of the week with an official recommendation for who exactly should get the shots.

Among the recommendations by the CDC will be a decision on who qualifies as "high risk" and which "front-line" workers are at highest risk of exposure.

Experts say it's possible the FDA will endorse the idea of booster shots for people under 65 without conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness as new data comes in.

"The story is not over because more and more data is coming in," White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC's Martha Raddatz on "This Week" Sunday.

"I think we really do need to test the water with one foot as we move forward," Dr. Paul Offit, an FDA advisory panel member and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News following the panel's vote last week.

"By the end of this week I think we'll learn more about exactly what the recommendations are," he said.

ABC News' Eric M. Strauss, Anne Flaherty, Sony Salzman and Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.

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Haaland embraces 'indigenous knowledge' in confronting historic climate change impacts

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(WASHINGTON) -- A relentless drought and wildfire season in America's West and a tense standoff over federal leases for oil and gas drilling have been early tests for the Biden administration's climate policy and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold the job and first indigenous member of a White House Cabinet.

"I can't speak for every tribe or even my tribe, but I can make sure that tribal leaders have a seat at the table," Haaland said in an interview with ABC News Live Prime. "Certainly, in this time of climate change bearing down upon us, that indigenous knowledge about our natural world will be extremely valuable and important to all of us."

"Indian tribes have been on this continent for millennia, for tens of thousands of years," she added. "They know how to take care of the land … that's knowledge that's been passed down for generations and generations."

Haaland, a former U.S. representative from New Mexico and one of the first two native women to serve in Congress, is leaning in on her experience as a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe to confront the historic impacts of climate change on communities nationwide.

She leads the agency which manages more than 480 million acres of public lands and a government leasing program that has allowed private energy businesses to tap into valuable natural resources situated on federal property.

Early in his term, President Joe Biden ordered a moratorium of new leases -- with an eye toward discontinuing the program altogether -- in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The move has made Haaland, who's now conducting a formal review of the program, a target of criticism from the energy industry and Republican lawmakers from states dependent on oil and gas production.

"You said that if you had it your way, and I quote, you'd stop oil and gas leasing on public lands. As secretary, you will get to have it your way," Sen. Steve Daines of Montana charged during Haaland's confirmation hearing earlier this year. The Republican later voted against her nomination.

"It's a pause on just new leases, not existing, valid leases," Haaland responded, explaining the moratorium. Last month, a federal court ordered the Interior Department to resume the leasing program while legal challenges continue.

"It has the potential to cost jobs here in the United States, good-paying energy jobs," Frank Macchiarola, an energy industry lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute told ABC News. "It has the potential to increase costs for consumers."

Most U.S. oil and gas production occurs on private land, according to the Congressional Research Service. Roughly 9% of American output came from federal lands in 2019, the agency said.

Haaland is also helping to lead the federal government's response to historic drought and wildfires fueled by climate change.

Ninety percent of the American West is experiencing "severe" or "exceptional" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The conditions have ravaged the agricultural industry in nearly a dozen states and forced several to enact mandatory water cutbacks for residents. California, Arizona and New Mexico have also been battling some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in years.

“Drought doesn't just impact one community. It affects all of us, from farmers and ranchers to city dwellers and Indian tribes," Haaland said on a visit to Denver in July. "We all have a role to use water wisely, manage our resources with every community in mind, work collaboratively and respect each other during this challenging time.”

The Interior Department has deployed millions of dollars in federal relief funds and sped recruitment of government firefighters. Last month, Haaland announced a pay raise for those on the front lines.

"We need to think about, you know, does that come down to management? Is that something that we need to reinvestigate how some of these forested lands are being managed? And is there a better way to prepare those forested lands for the next fire season?" said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, who hopes the worsening drought will lead to a greater review of how federal lands are managed and can best combat drought.

Haaland is also overseeing a multi-billion dollar renovation plan for the National Park System; a renewed campaign to improve access to the parks for communities of color; and steps to address longstanding protests by some tribal groups demanding greater control over federal parklands.

"You have to understand that for there to be any justice or repair on these lands, it has to go back to the roots. And for indigenous peoples on these lands -- it goes back to land theft," said Krystal Two Bulls, director of the Landback movement, which calls for all federal lands to be returned to their original tribes. "This entire so-called country was built on top of -- stolen land by stolen people."

Two Bulls and other Landback organizers argue that tribes are best suited to care for these lands given their deep history and knowledge of the natural world.

"Whoever's currently in charge is not protecting these lands, indigenous peoples, that's not what we're about, we're about that relationship to the land," Two Bulls told ABC News. "Native peoples knew how to manage and work with the fire, as a natural element, we knew how to do that."

Haaland has said she wants to use that knowledge in her tenure at the Interior Department and to make clear that "those voices are heard."

"Well, we absolutely are listening," she said.

During official travel, she regularly pays homage to her roots; she was known to wear traditional moccasins in the House and donned ceremonial tribal garb for her swearing in with Vice President Kamala Harris. She even addressed senators in the native language of the Laguna Pueblo during her confirmation hearing in the spring.

She also brings a legacy of service to her country; her father served as a Marine for three decades and her mother served in the Navy. Haaland said that she has always had a connection with the outdoors, and recalls spending time outside often with her father, who was an avid fisherman.

"I worked hard, and you know I followed a path, but I also stand on the shoulders of … so many tribal leaders who have come before me," Haaland said. "And so I feel very confident that if it weren't for those people that I wouldn't have had that path to follow."

Haaland was confirmed as secretary of the interior by a 51-40 vote in the Senate in March. Once sworn in, she took over the reins at an agency that less than two centuries earlier had a mission to "civilize or exterminate" indigenous people and led the oppressive relocation of Native Americans.

She says that history gave her no hesitation.

"This is our ancestral homeland, this is Native Americans', this is our ancestral homeland. We're not going anywhere," Haaland said. "This is land we love and care about."

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House votes to approve bill to avert government shutdown

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House voted along party lines to pass a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown next week.

The final vote was 220-211.

The bill would fund the government through Dec. 3 and it also includes billions in emergency disaster relief and aid for Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

Senate Republicans are expected to block the measure later this week because they do not want to vote on raising the debt limit -- which means a shutdown could still happen if funding runs out after midnight on Sept. 30.

Democrats need 10 Republican senators to vote with them, and as of right now, the votes are not there. The path forward to avert a shutdown is unclear as of right now.

Senate Republicans have said they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are crafting -- even though doing so would pay for previous expenditures. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions and said it's a bipartisan responsibility.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an "economic catastrophe."

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.

"Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans' help with raising the debt limit. I've explained this clearly and consistently for over two months," McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.

But Democrats are pressing ahead and remain optimistic about the bill's prospects, knowing full well the challenge they face in getting Republicans on board.

"It is our hope that Senate Republicans will also do the right thing and stop playing politics around the debt limit," House Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference Tuesday.

Jeffries indicated that at least a handful of Republicans have publicly expressed they will end up voting for the bill. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to back the bill.

"Three times -- during the administration of the former president -- three times House Democrats cooperated in raising the debt ceiling," Jeffries said.

"Now all of a sudden, they want to jam up the American people and the American economy and our full faith and credit, because they're playing politics?" Jeffries said of Republicans in the Senate.

"Senate Republicans should be hearing from their friends in the big banks and big business, as to how catastrophic a default on our debt would be for industry, for commerce, for the economy and most importantly for the American people," Jeffries added.

Without GOP support, it's unclear how Democrats will plan to tackle the issue of raising or suspending the debt limit alone.

"The debt limit is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together, in that spirit, on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to members over the weekend.

The short-term funding bill unveiled on Tuesday extends funding through Dec. 3 for all vital federal agencies, including health, housing, education and public safety programs.

"It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees," House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement Tuesday.

The bill also includes $28.6 billion in emergency disaster relief to address recent natural disasters, including multiple hurricanes and wildfires, severe droughts and winter storms in 2021 and prior years.

Another $6.3 billion would support Afghan evacuees, including funding to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities and in foreign countries, provide necessary security screenings and ultimately resettle eligible evacuees in the United States. The legislation also includes funding to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.

The legislation suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

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House Democrats remove money for Israel's Iron Dome system in funding bill

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats on Tuesday removed $1 billion in funding for Israel's Iron Dome air defense system from their stopgap government funding bill, after progressives threatened to tank the measure over the military support for Israel.

While Democratic leaders committed to approving the funding by year's end in another must-pass bill, the holdup was the latest episode in an ongoing intraparty debate over support for Israel.

Republicans quickly took to social media to accuse Democrats of undermining Israel's security, and planned a procedural vote to highlight Democrats' divisions -- even as they had planned to vote against the initial measure when it included Iron Dome funding.

Moderate Democrats also criticized their colleagues for opposing the funds for the defensive missile system, which President Joe Biden promised to replenish after Israel's conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in May.

While lawmakers from both parties have supported Israel's right to defend itself unconditionally for decades, a growing group of Democratic lawmakers have called on party leaders to revisit its relationship with Israel, and have accused its military of human rights abuses and blasted the treatment of Palestinians.

That tension has been exacerbated in recent years by the efforts of conservative Israeli leaders -- most notably former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- to align closely with Republicans and former President Donald Trump, after tensions with the Obama administration over the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Still, Democratic Party leaders and Biden have been quick to demonstrate their support for Israel. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid about the Iron Dome funding debate and reiterated Democrats' commitment to passing the measure.

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Two disbarred attorneys outside Texas sue abortion doctor under SB8

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(WASHINGTON) -- The first tests of Texas' unprecedented and highly controversial scheme for enforcing a ban on nearly all abortions have come from two non-Texans -- both former lawyers disbarred for alleged misconduct who are effectively inviting courts to invalidate the law on constitutional grounds.

Oscar Stilley, a former Arkansas attorney, brought one of the two civil suits filed Monday in Bexar County District Court against a San Antonio abortion doctor who publicly admitted to performing an unlawful procedure. Stilley is in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on a 15-year sentence for tax evasion and conspiracy, according to the complaint posted on his personal website.

Felipe N. Gomez, an Illinois attorney, brought the other suit; he is currently suspended from the state's bar over accusations of sending harassing and threatening emails, records show.

"In some ways the identity of these first plaintiffs highlights the absurdity of the law," said Kate Shaw, Cardozo School of Law professor and ABC News legal contributor.

"No connection to the issue, no connection to the parties, no connection -- as far as we can tell from the complaints -- to Texas, at all. And yet, they may well have the ability, the way the law is drafted, to go to court and to have the courts actually hear their case," she continued.

Gomez is a self-described "pro choice plaintiff," according to the two-page complaint obtained by ABC affiliate KSAT, and explicitly asked the court to strike the law, SB8, down.

SB8 prohibits abortions after about 6 weeks of pregnancy in Texas and allows "any person, other than an officer or employee of state or local government," to bring a civil suit against someone believed to have "aided or abetted" an unlawful abortion.

"The statute says that anybody can file a suit. That doesn't mean that there's not some state constitutional limitation on who could file a suit," said Irving Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law Center, "but this person seems to be somebody who has no objection to abortions, he just wants to earn a bounty."

Stilley, who is seeking to claim a minimum $10,000 reward, and Gomez, who says he is not seeking any financial damages, both sued Dr. Alan Braid, an OB-GYN based in San Antonio, who publicly acknowledged in an op-ed on Sept. 6 that he had performed a first-trimester abortion in express violation of state law.

"I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care," Braid wrote. "I fully understood that there could be legal consequences -- but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn't get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested."

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Sept. 1 to allow SB8 to take effect on procedural grounds, despite what the majority acknowledged as "serious questions" about constitutionality. The justices did not address those questions.

Legal experts said the new civil cases are now "vehicles" for state and federal courts to examine the substance of SB8 itself -- the near total ban on abortions across the state -- and ultimately suspend enforcement of the measure as in violation of longstanding Supreme Court precedent.

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Democrats introduce post-Trump ethics bill to enforce subpoenas, limit conflicts

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"Donald Trump made this legislation a necessity, but this is bigger than any one president," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a news conference. "It's about our values, our ideals and our future."

The Protecting Our Democracy Act would speed up the enforcement of congressional subpoenas -- which were routinely ignored by the Trump administration -- and require administration officials to pay any court fines and legal fees.

After Trump refused to acknowledge Joe Biden's election victory and disrupted the transition, the bill proposes starting the transition process within five days of the election and would allow both campaigns to receive government briefings and make other preparations.

It would also require presidents and candidates to submit years of income tax returns to the Federal Election Commission for public release -- after Trump refused to release his returns as a candidate and as commander-in-chief, arguing that an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit prevented him from doing so.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposal would prevent presidents from using their office as a "get-out-of-jail-free card," by suspending the statute of limitations for crimes committed by a president or vice president while they are in office.

Schiff said the House could vote on the package later this fall. But it's unclear if it has the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to clear the filibuster and 60-vote threshold for legislation.

"I realize many of the Republican members live in fear of angry statements from the former president," Schiff said.

Many of the underlying bills in the package, including proposals to beef up protections for whistleblowers and independent inspectors general at government agencies, have bipartisan support -- suggesting that Democrats could have more success in the Senate if they take it up piecemeal.

The Biden administration has worked "very constructively" with Democrats for months on the package, Schiff said.

The White House asked lawmakers to exempt administration officials from court fines if they are instructed to ignore subpoenas by the president. The version of the bill unveiled Tuesday also did not include earlier language requiring the White House to turn over presidential communications to Congress.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden challenges UN to act together on pandemic, climate change

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(NEW YORK) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday delivered his first speech as president to the United Nations General Assembly, telling diplomats that they were meeting at a moment "intermingled with great pain and extraordinary possibility."

He pitched his vision for America's return to the world stage -- in sharp contrast with years of bellicosity from his predecessor, President Donald Trump -- in which Biden said the U.S. would helm the response to the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, and put behind decades of conflict in favor of diplomacy and partnership.

The world, he said, stood "at an inflection point in history," saying that, "to fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will."

"Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms," Biden said. "Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19, or its future variants."

His remarks were a laundry list of his goals -- with some of the strongest words reserved for the climate crisis -- that largely glossed over recent tensions with allies regarding the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.

"We've ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan," Biden said, "and as we close this period of relentless war, we're opening a new era of relentless diplomacy of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world."

He did not even making passing reference to a recently announced defense partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom aimed at curbing China's influence on in the Indo-Pacific region, which led Australia to nix a major defense deal with France. That, in turn, prompted France to recall its ambassador from the U.S. and express its displeasure with Biden.

After his remarks, Biden planned to meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at noon before departing for Washington, where he'll host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House late in the afternoon, according to the White House.

The meetings come amid a diplomatic spat with France, which has expressed displeasure with Biden for a just announced defense partnership with Australia and United Kingdom -- which led to Australia nixing a major defense deal with France for nuclear-powered submarine technology.

Administration officials said Biden was trying to set up a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, too.

Biden's Tuesday morning speech kicked off a week of global engagements. The White House said Biden hoped to turn the page from conflict to global cooperation and competition.

As the president implored countries to "work together as never before," he tried to tamp down fears over the United States' increasing competition with China.

The day before, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned the U.S. and China to avoid a new Cold War and urged them to fix their "completely dysfunctional relationship."

On Tuesday, Biden told delegates -- without referencing China by name: "We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks."

He said common action was needed to deal with climate change, a crisis he noted was "borderless."

"Will we meet the threat of challenging climate, the challenging climate we're all feeling, already ravaging every part of our world with extreme weather, or will we suffer the merciless march of ever more of ever-worsening droughts and floods, more intense fires and hurricanes, longer heat waves, and rising seas?" he said.

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Republicans dig in on debt-limit standoff despite Democratic effort to mount pressure

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans are holding firm against a hike to the federal debt limit, even as Democratic leaders announced Monday that they would link the raise in the borrowing limit to a must-pass government funding measure.

Government funding is set to expire at the end of September and administration officials are projecting that the United States could default on its credit in the coming weeks. The White House has warned an unprecedented default could send shockwaves through the economy and trigger a recession.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for weeks has dug in against support of a hike to the debt limit, arguing that Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, should be held responsible for the move. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions, and they said it's a bipartisan responsibility.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Monday looked to ratchet up the pressure on Republicans by linking the increase in the federal spending limit to a resolution aimed at keeping the government open past a fast-approaching end of the fiscal year. That resolution includes aid for Afghan refugees and emergency funding for natural disaster relief.

"The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur," the leaders wrote in a statement, pointing to $908 billion COVID relief legislation passed under former President Donald Trump.

Within moments of the Democratic announcement that the two measures would be tied, McConnell threw cold water on the plan. In floor remarks Monday afternoon, he doubled down on his long-held opposition to raising the debt limit.

Republicans would support an extension to government funding, McConnell said, but not if it includes a lift to the debt ceiling.

"Since Democrats decided to go it alone they will not get Senate Republican's help with raising the debt limit," McConnell said Monday.

Almost all Senate Republicans are in line behind McConnell, vowing to vote against a raise to the limit because they oppose additional massive spending measures that Democrats are currently working to craft.

Their biggest opposition is to a $3.5 trillion spending measure that encompasses many of President Joe Biden's agenda items and which is exempt from the normal 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Democrats can pass it without any GOP support, and a raise in the limit should be tied to that bill, Republicans argue.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday his vote on raising the debt limit would be "absolutely no."

"The Democrats say they don't need our votes to spend money they want to spend, but they do need our votes to pay for it," Romney said. "That dog won't hunt."

"I will not be consenting to anything that makes it easier for Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to bankrupt our kids," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, joining a chorus of other Republicans who also said Monday they won't support a government funding stop-gap that includes a raise to the debt limit.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin accused Republicans of being politically motivated in their opposition and said they are failing to take responsibility for their actions.

"I certainly hope Sen. McConnell is not going to do damage to America and its economy out of an act of political spite," Durbin said. "If he won't stand up and take responsibility for things which he and his members supported in the Trump administration it shows this is a totally political effort."

But pressed on what Democrats would do if Republican opposition held, Durbin was frank: "I don't know."

The House is expected to vote to raise the debt limit and fund government on Tuesday, after the Rules Committee takes up the matter. Schumer said Democrats in the Senate will hold a vote to raise the limit in the coming weeks, but without at least 10 Republicans to support the measure, there's little that can be done aside from inclusion in the $3.5 trillion package. If the United States defaults on its debt in the coming weeks, it will be the first time in history this occurs. U.S. creditworthiness would take a hit, and markets could be severely impacted.

At least one Republican, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, said he would vote with Democrats on the measure because it would include hurricane relief for his home state. However he predicted that the bill would still fall short of 60 votes.

As they grapple with a looming government funding deadline and potential credit default, Democratic lawmakers are also at odds over how to advance their $3.5 trillion social policy package and the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Progressives have vowed to withhold votes in the House for the Senate infrastructure agreement until their policy demands are met for the larger package. But moderates in the House and Senate have threatened to sink Biden's major policy package over its scale and individual provisions.

"I've never seen anything like this," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said of the to-do list before Congress. "I don't know how's it going to end."

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Line 3 pipeline resistance continues as activists ask Biden admin to shutdown project

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(WASHINGTON) -- Opposition to the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks with the project nearly complete. Environmentalists, Hollywood celebrities and Democratic lawmakers have called on the White House to intervene at the eleventh hour, arguing that the risk of a potential spill is too great and tribal sovereignty has been violated.

If completed and fully operational, the Line 3 pipeline will be able to carry 760,000 barrels a day of Canadian oil from North Dakota to Wisconsin. Most of the opposition has centered around 337 miles of the pipeline in Minnesota that crisscrosses dozens of bodies of water, including near the start of the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in protests around the pipeline.

“The main concern is a spill. It crosses so many rivers, if a spill happens at a river site, the entire stream would be contaminated … our ecosystems would never recover,” Sam Strong, secretary of the Red Lake Nation, told ABC News.

More than 50 cities rely on the Mississippi for daily water supply, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service.

“It’s some of the most pristine land in the entire United States, one of our national treasures, and they chose to put this pipeline directly through those headwaters. Who is making those decisions?” he said.

The company building the Line 3 pipeline, Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. said the pipeline is actually safer for the surrounding area than the older pipes it's replacing. The EPA and Department of Justice ordered the company to replace the aging lines in 2017 and Enbridge Chief Communications Officer Mike Fernandez said they've taken multiple steps to limit the impact on the sensitive ecosystems around the new lines, including using thicker materials and engineering lines to go deeper below areas that feed into the Mississippi.

“This has been a six-year regulatory legal, science-based process where everything's been tested,” Fernandez told ABC News in an interview.

But the construction hasn't been without problems. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fined Enbridge $3.3 million for “unauthorized groundwater appropriation," on Friday. According to the state agency, Enbridge has dug deeper in some areas during construction than its permits allow, and, as a result, the company disturbed an aquifer and released millions of gallons of groundwater while the state struggles with a drought.

The Red Lake Nation joined the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe tribe, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club and others in a number of lawsuits trying to stop the project, but the Minnesota Courts sided with the State and Enbridge Energy, the pipeline owner, in the lengthy permitting process.

A D.C. federal court has yet to rule on a lawsuit arguing that permits for the project issued by the Army Corps of Engineers should be re-evaluated.

The Department of Justice, so far, has defended the Corps, and the White House has deflected questions, citing that case. Activists argue the president and his team could, if they chose, take a more active role and ask the Corps to conduct further impact studies.

“President Biden took decisive action on day one in office to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline protecting cultural resources, land and water of tribal nations along the route. Now, President Biden, Jaime Pinkham [Acting, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works] and the US Army Corps of Engineers have the full authority to hit pause on these pipelines until a proper assessment of the dangers they pose is completed,” a group of tribal leaders wrote Friday.

The project began as a replacement. Enbridge was instructed in 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to replace the old, failing pipeline. The company said the new pipes are engineered to be safer for the surrounding area.

“This has been a six-year regulatory legal, science-based process where everything's been tested,” Enbridge’s Chief Communications Officer Mike Fernandez told ABC News.

Those protesting the pipeline, though, balk at the notion that this was about just upgrading pipelines. After all the permitting, mapping, and debate, the new pipeline now runs on a route that is a third new, and the pipeline will be able to carry nearly double the amount of oil, according to Enbridge and state documents.

Questions of tribal sovereignty

Fernandez said the new route was evidence that tribes were consulted in the process as the line was adjusted around some landmarks and tribal borders. A few local tribes have agreed to work with Enbridge Energy and allow the pipeline to run through their land. Others, however, have braced for the pipeline to cross land they lay claim to without their permission.

“We can say that there was consultation or conference with our tribes, but at the end of the day, those words, those feelings, those thoughts were not taken into consideration when decision making was done. And so for me, that feels very insincere,” Minnesota State Senator Mary Kunesh told ABC News at a protest rally Labor Day weekend in Bemidji, Minnesota. She said she's seen echoes of Standing Rock and the debate over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After repeatedly writing to the White House asking President Joe Biden to intervene, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., brought several of her fellow Democratic colleagues to her home-state to meet with the “water protectors,” as many in the opposition call themselves.

“It is really not just an environmental issue here. It is an issue of, you know, solidarity with our indigenous neighbors. It is about standing up for Indian nations. It's about fulfilling the treaty rights that we have as part of our laws in this country,” Omar told ABC News during the group’s trip.

Earlier this month, the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe tribe brought a novel case to tribal court, listing wild rice as the key plaintiff, and arguing nature itself has the right to exist and is threatened by this project.

Emission reduction goals and the energy future

Biden held a second global summit on climate change Friday and urged his counterparts to set aggressive benchmarks for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Still, climate scientist Heidi Roop, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said it is hard to imagine the president meeting his own emission goals with a new pipeline like this bringing more oil to market.

“The new pipeline is designed to carry around 760,000 barrels of oil a day. If we look at the emissions associated with the combustion of that amount of fuel, it translates roughly into around 38 million, the equivalent of 38 million cars on the road. Every year, or around 45 coal-fired power plants burning,” Roop told ABC News.

“If we just consider the consequences to climate change investments in fossil fuel infrastructure that will increase our ability to consume fossil fuels, which are the root cause of our warming planet, sets us in the wrong direction,” Roop continued. “If we want to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. We have to start considering other tools in our toolbox that are going to support and sustain society.”

Fernandez said Enbridge wanted to be a part of transitioning to an energy future that relied more on cleaner energy but argued there was still a strong goal demand for oil.

Complicating the debate around for this pipeline in particular, is the exact type of Canadian oil that Line 3 is designed to transport: tar sands. A heavier oil that requires significant energy to both mine and refine, tar sands is considered one of the dirtiest options.

“So the question is, are we going to have the same demand for oil in 2015, if we have it 2021, and I don't think that's the case," Arvind Ravikumar, an expert in the climate impacts and energy infrastructure and associate professor at the University of Texas - Austin, told ABC News. "Therefore, when we are thinking about building these new pipelines, we have to think not just about the climate impacts of the oil that's going to flow in tomorrow, but about whether that infrastructure for fossil fuels is necessary for the next 30 years.”

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500 US women athletes ask Supreme Court to uphold abortion rights

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(WASHINGTON) -- A decorated group of more than 500 current and former American women Olympians and professional and collegiate athletes is warning the U.S. Supreme Court in a new legal filing that eroding access to abortion care in America will be "devastating" to women's athletics at all levels.

"If the state compelled women athletes to carry pregnancies to term and give birth, it could derail women's athletic careers, academic futures, and economic livelihoods at a large scale," the women write. "Such a fundamental restriction on bodily integrity and human autonomy would never be imposed on a male athlete, though he would be equally responsible for a pregnancy."

Among the named signatories are U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe; Olympic water polo player Ashleigh Johnson; WNBA star Diana Taurasi; U.S. women's soccer national team captain Becky Sauerbrunn; and, Layshia Clarendon, a former WNBA all-star and current vice president of the Women's National Basketball Players Association.

The filing -- known as an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief -- was made in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a blockbuster abortion rights showdown scheduled or oral argument at the Supreme Court on Dec. 1.

The state of Mississippi has explicitly asked the court to overturn nearly 50 years of abortion rights precedent since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, allowing states to set stringent new restrictions on early-term abortions, if not outlaw them entirely.

"As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives," Rapinoe said in a statement. "I am honored to stand with the hundreds of athletes who have signed onto this Supreme Court brief to help champion not only our constitutional rights, but also those of future generations of athletes."

The signatories are all women who "have exercised, relied on the availability of, or support the constitutional right to abortion care in order to meet the demands of their sports," according to the brief.

Women's rights advocates said it was the first time a large group of female American athletes publicly took a stand in support of abortion access.

Crissy Perham, a double gold medalist and captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic swim team, offered one of several personal testimonies in the brief attesting to her experience obtaining an abortion.

"When I was in college, I was on birth control, but I accidentally became pregnant," she wrote. "I decided to have an abortion. I wasn't ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life."

"That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate and a proud mother today," Perham wrote.

Several athletes described the importance of the Supreme Court precedent in laying the groundwork for more women to participate in athletics and as a "safeguard" in case birth control failed.

"As a victim of rape during my junior year of college, I was comforted in the fact that if I were to fall pregnant and need an abortion, I would have access to that service," a Division I field hockey player, who was not identified by name, wrote in the brief.

Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic water polo team and member of the gold-medal 2016 and 2021 Olympic teams, said she wants the justices to see abortion access a matter of racial justice.

The case will be argued in December and is expected to be decided by the end of June 2022.

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Army Gen. Mark Milley was 'not going rogue' in secret calls to China, authors of new book claim

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Trump's top military adviser was "not going rogue" when he held secret phone calls with his Chinese counterpart before and after the 2020 election, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa said on "Good Morning America" Monday.

"He was not going rogue," Costa told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview. "He was reading people in throughout the national security community, trying to contain a situation and a president he believed was in serious mental decline."

According to their new book "Peril," which chronicles the end of the Trump administration, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng in October 2020 and January 2021 to dispel Chinese fears that Trump was planning a secret attack and to assure him the U.S. was not on the verge of collapse after the Capitol riot.

"If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise," Milley said on the October call, according to the book.

While Trump and Republicans accused Milley of treason and called on President Joe Biden to fire him amid reports of his phone calls, Costa told Stephanopoulos that Milley was "reading people in" on his conversations, suggesting that their reporting in the book was being misconstrued.

Even though the calls "were held on a top secret back channel, they were not secret," Costa said. "This was not someone who was working in isolation."

Added Woodward: "Two days after the insurrection at the Capitol was a moment of maximum tension."

Speaking to The Associated Press last week in Greece, Milley said the calls were "routine" and done "to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

He said he was prepared to defend his actions in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.

The new book, which goes on sale Sep. 21, also details how former Vice President Mike Pence grappled with his duties to certify the election results on Jan. 6, as Trump repeatedly pressured him to overturn Biden's victory.

Pence consulted the Senate parliamentarian and former Vice President Dan Quayle on how to approach his ceremonial role presiding over the electoral vote count.

"You don't know the position I'm in," Pence told Quayle.

"I do know the position you're in," Quayle replied, according to the book. "I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That's all you do. You have no power."

Pence, who is eyeing a 2024 White House bid, was "trying to ride both horses," Woodward said. He was trying to "do his constitutional duty but also keep the avenues to Trump open," Woodward added.

Woodward and Costa conducted more than 200 deep background interviews with witnesses or firsthand participants in events described in the book.

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Biden administration to ease restrictions on travelers to US in November

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(NEW YORK) -- The White House on Monday announced a new international air travel system starting in early November, requiring all foreign nationals traveling to the United States to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S. bound plane -- ending the separation of some families since March 2020.

The new system, along with the vaccine requirement, would include stepped up testing, contact tracing and masking, officials said.

For fully vaccinated international travelers, the 14-day quarantine would go away. The specific vaccines that qualify a traveler as “fully vaccinated” will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

”This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID from passengers flying internationally into the United States or requiring adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States to be fully vaccinated. It's based on public health. It requires fully vaccinated individuals. And so this is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so is a strong system,” Zients said.

The announcement came as President Joe Biden prepared to head to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday and a day before he was to meet at the White House with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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