Posts tagged with "Biden Administration"

Supreme Court rules Biden can end Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

July 5, 2022

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that the Biden Administration can cancel the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, which required authorities either to jail asylum applicants from Central America or deny them U.S. entry until their cases are resolved, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The court found the Biden Administration acted within its discretion by ending the program—overturning lower-court rulings that required the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the policy.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts  noted that Congress never has provided sufficient funding to detain the vast numbers of migrants seeking asylum. At the same time, the United States cannot unilaterally expel to Mexico the citizens of Central American countries covered by the policy.

The lower court “imposed a significant burden upon the Executive’s ability to conduct diplomatic relations with Mexico,” the chief justice wrote, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh—adding that it forced the government “to the bargaining table with Mexico, over a policy that both countries wish to terminate,” and asserted authority “to supervise its continuing negotiations with Mexico to ensure that they are conducted ‘in good faith.’”

Congress couldn’t have intended to hand a federal judge such power over American foreign policy, the court concluded.

Texas and Missouri, both Republican-led states, sued to stop the administration from ending the policy, known formally as the Migrant Protection Protocols. Lower courts, including the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, had found several reasons to keep it in place.

Among other arguments, the states contended that the Biden Administration failed to follow required administrative procedures in changing the policy; and for authority cited the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision rejecting the Trump Administration’s plan to require that census forms ask whether respondents had U.S. citizenship.

Justice Roberts, who also wrote the 2019 decision, said the comparison was inapt. In the census case, the Trump Administration said it needed the data to help protect minorities from discrimination under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Supreme Court, like several lower courts, found that claim to be a pretext.

In his ruling Thursday, the chief justice wrote that, while there were indications of “bad faith or improper behavior” by the Trump Administration’s actions on the census, “nothing in this record suggests a ‘significant mismatch between the decision the Secretary made and the rationale he provided’” for terminating Remain in Mexico.

The principal dissent, by Justice Samuel Alito, noted the crisis at the southern border.“In fiscal year 2021, the Border Patrol reported more than 1.7 million encounters with aliens along the Mexican border,” he wrote.

Due to those high numbers, Justice Alito wrote, the government lacks “the capacity to detain all inadmissible migrants encountered at the border.” But rather than return them “to Mexico while they await proceedings in this country, DHS has concluded that it may forgo that option altogether and instead simply release into this country untold numbers of aliens” whose asylum applications likely will be denied, he wrote.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined the Alito dissent. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, joined by the other three, filed a separate dissent raising procedural objections to hearing the case.

“The administration dragged its feet and refused to implement this effective program in good faith, allowing hundreds of thousands of illegals to pour over the border month after month,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican. “Today’s decision makes the border crisis worse.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it was moving ahead to end Remain in Mexico. The program “has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” it said in a statement. “The Department also continues to enforce our immigration laws at the border and administer consequences for those who enter unlawfully.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Kremlin rips Biden Administration decision to send rockets to Ukraine

June 2, 2022

The Russian government has slammed the Biden Administration’s decision to include medium-range rocket systems in the United States’ most recent weapons package to Ukraine, reports The Hill.

Kremlin spokesperson  Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, June 1, that Biden’s decision is “deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire,”  The Associated Press was among the first to communicate.

A senior White House official said the United States was comfortable giving Ukraine the rocket systems after being assured that the Ukrainian government would use it only to counter Russian systems, not attack Russian territory. 

Peskov said the Kremlin does not trust Ukraine’s assurances that it would not use the systems to attack Russia, according to AP.

“In order to trust [someone], you need to have experience with situations when such promises were kept,” Peskov said. “Regretfully, there is no such experience whatsoever.”

The U.S. is sending Ukraine  High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and munitions that would enable Ukrainian forces to more precisely strike targets from a greater distance inside Ukraine. The systems can hit targets nearly 50 miles away.

Multiple news outlets had reported that the Biden Administration was planning to send Ukraine a different missile system that could reach targets up to 300 kilometers away, but Biden ruled out providing Ukraine with that system on Monday.

Biden announced the decision on the rockets in an op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday, March 31. He also said the United States is not trying to oust Russian President Vladimir Putin as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said the country’s goal is to ensure a “democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine.”

The package the administration is sending will also include Javelin anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radar, and tactical vehicles. 

The U.S. decision comes as Russia has been tightening its grip on the easternmost areas of Ukraine, specifically in the Donbas region. Russian forces have concentrated on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk as the last remaining Ukrainian strongholds in the Luhansk province.

Research contact: @thehill

USA to announce hundreds of millions in new security assistance to Ukraine

April 14, 2022

On Wednesday, April 13, sources close to the Biden Administration said America would announce hundreds of millions of dollars in new military assistance to Ukraine, reports CNN.

The final amount had not been confirmed as of Tuesday, but most estimated that the bottom line would be $700 million, with President Joe Biden using his drawdown authority to authorize the new aid package for Ukraine.

Reuters first reported on the new security assistance package.

If approved, the addition of approximately $800 million in security assistance would bring the total aid to Ukraine to more than $3 billion since the start of the Biden Administration—including nearly $2.5 billion since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s 2020 defense budget was only about $6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In less than two months, the United States has provided nearly half of that in security assistance, underscoring the pace at which the White House has worked to send in weaponry and equipment.

U.S. shipments of an $800 million security assistance package approved in mid-March will likely wrap up by the middle of April, a senior defense official said Tuesday. And a $100 million package of Javelin anti-armor systems approved in early April will also likely complete delivery very soon, the official added. These packages came from Defense Department inventories, making it relatively easy and quick to transfer the weapons and systems to Ukraine.

According to a draft list of the shipment described to CNN that had been sent to Congress, the Administration was considering the delivery of weapons systems to Ukraine that would include MI-17 helicopters, coastal sea drones, Howitzers, armored Humvees, and other weapons that had been in previous aid packages.

As of Tuesday night, two sources said helicopters had been removed from the list, which officials say is heavily caveated, with items regularly changed or removed up until it receives the final authorization and signature from Biden.

On April 1, the White House also authorized a separate $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, but this package will take more time, since it has to be procured from defense contractors first.

Research contact: @CNN

America sends Soviet air defense systems it secretly acquired to Ukraine

March 23, 2022

The United States is sending some of the Soviet-made air defense equipment that it acquired clandestinely decades ago to the Ukrainian military as it seeks to fend off  Russian air and missile attacks, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, the United States has acquired a small number of Soviet missile defense systems so that they could be examined by U.S. intelligence experts and help with training American forces. The weapons are familiar to Ukraine’s military, which inherited this type of equipment following the breakup of the Soviet Union, sources say.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the U.S. decision to reach into its little-known arsenal of Soviet weapons, which comes as the Biden Administration is mounting a major push to expand Ukraine’s air defense capabilities.

The secretive efforts received public attention in 1994 when a Soviet-made transport plane was observed at the Huntsville, Alabama, airport within sight of a major highway. It was later disclosed that the plane was carrying an S-300 air defense system that America had acquired in Belarus as part of a clandestine project involving a Pentagon contractor that cost $100 million, according to a former official involved in the mission.

The S-300—called the SA-10 by NATO—is a long-range, advanced air defense system intended to protect large areas over a much wider radius.

The SA-8 is a short-range, tactical surface-to-air missile designed to move with ground forces and provide cover from aircraft and helicopters. While the SA-8 has a shorter range, it is highly mobile and potentially easier to hide.

Some of the Soviet-style weapons have been kept at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, which its website notes serves as “the Army’s center for missile and rocket programs.” At least some of what the U.S. sent was from that base, said officials, who added that C-17s recently flew to a nearby airfield at Huntsville.

The S-300 from Belarus wasn’t among the systems that are being sent to Ukraine, one U.S. official said.

The United States is hoping that the provision of additional air defenses will enable Ukraine to create a de facto no-fly zone, since America and its NATO allies have rebuffed Ukraine’s appeals that the alliance establish one. Such a step, Biden Administration officials have said, could lead to a direct confrontation between the U.S.-led alliance and Russian forces, which it is determined to avoid.

Research contact: @WSJ

White House: Additional sanctions on Russia could come ‘at any moment’

February 24, 2022

A White House national security official said on Wednesday, February 23, that the Biden Administration could levy additional sanctions on Russia “at any moment”—another sign that America is willing to further punish the Kremlin as the situation evolves in Ukraine, reports The Hill.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh argued on CNN’s early morning talk show, New Day, that the sanctions imposed on Tuesday by the United States were significant—noting that they hit major Russian financial institutions, several Russian oligarchs, and Russian sovereign debt.

“These costs are going to escalate from here. The two largest banks in the Russian economy are $750 billion in assets under management; that’s ten times larger,” Singh said. “Our export controls, which can deny all of the critical technology inputs to Russia, have yet to be unveiled. We can unveil those at any moment.” 

He added, “Russia’s already feeling the pain. … This is all because of the signaling of sanctions, and now we’re starting to deliver.”

Singh, who appeared in the White House briefing room on Tuesday, argued that sanctions are not meant to be used simply to inflict pain for their own sake, but to deter and prevent Russia from further invading Ukraine.

“Sometimes I wonder if there’s almost a bloodlust out there for sanctions as an end to themselves,” Singh said, pointing to media questions about why the Administration has gradually unveiled sanctions. “But let me just be really clear: We did hit hard yesterday.”

 President Biden and European allies on Tuesday unveiled an initial round of sanctions after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine as independent republics, setting the stage for Moscow to provide military support to Russian-backed separatists in the area.

Biden expressed concern that Putin’s actions were a precursor to a larger invasion of Ukraine, and he vowed that the United States and its allies were united and willing to impose additional sanctions.

Germany rescinded its certification on Tuesday for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany; and the pipeline could be a target for additional sanctions down the road.

Research contact: @thehill

Biden Administration to launch website for free 500 million COVID-19 testing kits on Wednesday

January 19, 2022

The Biden Administration o is set to launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person on Wednesday, January 19, according to a senior administration official, reports USA Today.

The tests—which represent part of the Biden Administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections—will be delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that his administration would double its order to 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide as U.S. cases spike. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said. 

The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country—shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals, and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation. 

The administration so far has procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and is working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official.

The White House also plans to launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community organizations to meet requests from the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, according to officials.

Aside from the free tests available through the website, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month for people through their insurance plans beginning Saturday, January 22. Americans will be able to either purchase tests for free through their insurance or submit receipts for reimbursement.

The president is also expected to announce next week the steps he’s taking to make high-quality masks available for free, but details of how those would be distributed are still unclear.

The latest White House effort comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting new records—with some hospitals delaying elective surgeries while states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.

The White House is also sending military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Mexico to help confront a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Roughly one in five hospitals has reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA Today analysis found. One in four anticipated critical shortages within the next week.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Supreme Court blocks Biden’s vaccine-or-test rule for large employers

January 17, 2022

On Thursday, January13, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing its emergency rule mandating that workers at large businesses get vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19—a major setback for the president’s national vaccination effort, reports the HuffPost.

However, the court decided to allow the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities.

The justices’ decision to intervene and halt one of the vaccine regulations has major public health implications amid a surge in coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant. The White House hoped the rule, issued through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), would protect workers against COVID-19 transmission and encourage holdouts to get vaccinated.

The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of halting OSHA’s vaccine-or-test rule, with the court’s six conservatives in the majority and the three liberals dissenting. They ruled 5-4 in favor of letting the healthcare rule proceed, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh breaking with their conservative colleagues to join the liberals.

The OSHA regulation requires that employers with at least 100 workers implement programs in which those workers show proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test each week. The administration estimates it would cover 84 million workers, mostly in the private sector.

Enforcement of the testing provision was slated to begin on Febrary 9.

Business groups and state GOP officials filed lawsuits aimed at blocking the rule, arguing that it went beyond OSHA’s legal power and would hurt the economy by prompting workers to quit their jobs. Lower courts disagreed on whether the rule was within OSHA’s authority.

In their ruling, the majority said the opponents of the OSHA rule were likely to prevail in court, and so the justices’ decision prevents the rule from going into effect while the litigation plays out. In an opinion joined by justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “Congress has nowhere clearly assigned so much power to OSHA” to institute such a requirement for employers.

“Yet that is precisely what the agency seeks to do now—regulate not just what happens inside the workplace but induce individuals to undertake a medical procedure that affects their lives outside the workplace,” Gorsuch wrote.

In their dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court should leave such policies to the experts. By acting “outside of its competence and without legal basis,” they argued, the court was substituting its own judgment for that of the government officials tasked with responding to a crisis.

“If OSHA’s Standard is far-reaching—applying to many millions of American workers—it no more than reflects the scope of the crisis,” the justices wrote. “The Standard responds to a workplace health emergency unprecedented in the agency’s history: an infectious disease that has already killed hundreds of thousands and sickened millions.”

The court held a special session to hear oral arguments on the matter on January 7-—expediting the case as enforcement of the rule was about to begin. While the court’s three liberal justices seemed loath to undermine a public health regulation as COVID-19 cases were soaring, most of the conservative justices voiced skepticism of the rule, suggesting it should necessitate an act of Congress.

Alito wondered whether OSHA was trying to legally “squeeze an elephant through a mouse hole” by issuing the rule. Chief Justice John Roberts asked “why Congress doesn’t have a say in this.”

The Biden administration has argued that OSHA has the authority to issue the vaccine-or-test rule under its emergency powers, and that a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates such a sweeping regulation.

such as hepatitis B, influenza, and measles, mumps, and rubella,” they wrote.

Biden said in a statement Thursday that the ruling upholding the health care rule “will save lives,” including those of patients, nurses and doctors. He also said he was “disappointed” that the court blocked the OSHA regulation, saying it included “common-sense life-saving requirements” for employers.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Free and easy: Insurers will have to cover eight at-home virus tests per month

January 13, 2022

Private insurers soon will have to cover the cost of eight at-home coronavirus tests per member per month, the Biden Administration said on Monday, January 10, reports The New York Times.

Americans will be able to get the tests at their health plan’s “preferred” pharmacies and other retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. They can also buy the tests elsewhere and file claims for reimbursement, just as they often do for medical care.

“Today’s action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the Biden Administration’s Medicare and Medicaid chief, said in a statement about the new guidelines.

Roughly 150 million Americans, or about 45% of the population, are privately insured—mostly through their employers. Each enrolled dependent of the primary insurance holder counts as a member.

At out-of-network facilities, insurers’ responsibility would be capped at $12 per test, meaning people could be responsible for any additional costs.

But if a health plan does not establish a network of “preferred” retailers where patients can get tests covered upfront, it will be responsible for whatever claims its patients submit for their eight monthly rapid tests, with no limit on the price.

Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said the policy could save families hundreds of dollars a month.

“I would love to see a more comprehensive national testing policy where these tests are free for everybody, regardless of insurance status,” she said. “Will it help everybody? No. It is definitely not the ideal way to lower barriers to COVID testing. But it is helpful.”

Rapid at-home tests are typically sold in packs of two, ranging in cost from about $14 to $34. That can be prohibitively expensive, especially when tests are purchased in bulk.

Some local governments in the United States have invested heavily in rapid testing to counter the latest wave of cases. Washington, D.C., which has experienced a substantial surge in virus cases, now allows residents to pick up four free rapid tests daily at libraries across the city.

The new Biden policy will not apply retroactively to at-home tests that Americans already have purchased. Tests ordered or administered by health providers will continue to be covered by insurance without any co-payment or deductible under a law requiring insurers to fully cover tests at doctor’s offices, public sites, and other facilities.

The Administration is working on other efforts to get coronavirus tests to people regardless of their insurance status—including a plan to deliver 500 million free rapid tests to the homes of Americans who order them, starting later this month.

That plan, along with the new rules for insurers announced Monday, is part of a broader effort by the Biden Administration in recent weeks to catch up to skyrocketing demand for rapid tests, as virus cases have exploded around the nation with the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden Administration asks SCOTUS for consent to end Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

December 31, 2021

On Wednesday, December 29, the Biden Administration asked the Supreme Court for permission to end the Trump-era Remain in Mexico” program, which requires non-Mexican asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court dates,  reports CNN.

In August, a federal judge in Texas ordered the revival of the policy after the Department of Homeland Security attempted to end the program. An appeals court also ruled against the Administration, which began to re-implement the program earlier this month.

Under former President Donald Trump, thousands of migrants were subject to the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols, which has resulted in migrants living in makeshift camps along Mexico’s northern border, often in squalor and dangerous conditions.

“In short, the lower courts have commanded DHS to implement and enforce the short-lived and controversial MPP program in perpetuity. And they have done so despite determinations by the politically accountable Executive Branch that MPP is not the best tool for deterring unlawful migration; that MPP exposes migrants to unacceptable risks; and that MPP detracts from the Executive’s foreign-relations efforts to manage regional migration,” the Administration wrote to the justices.

According to CNN, the filing also requests that the Supreme Court review the case this term, arguing that the appeals court ruling threatens to disrupt other cases where the government’s policies on issues like immigration detention and parole are challenged.

“Delaying review until next Term would likely postpone resolution of those critical issues until sometime in 2023. In the meantime, the government would be forced to continue negotiating with Mexico to maintain a controversial program that it has already twice determined is no longer in the best interests of the United States,” the filing reads.

The Supreme Court previously denied a request from the Administration that the program’s revival remain on hold while the case was appealed.

When the federal appeals court blocked President Joe Biden’s attempt to end the immigration program, it said the Administration’s efforts did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets out specific processes that agencies must go through in unveiling new policies.

The court also said that the effort violated an immigration law that says noncitizens “shall” be detained or returned to the countries from which they arrived while their immigration proceedings move forward.

Research contact: @CNN

Biden Administration sets a January 4 vaccination deadline for 84M private sector workers

November 5, 2021

The Biden Administration said on Thursday, November 4, that large companies have until January 4 to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated under a sweeping new coronavirus health measure that will cover 84 million private sector wage earners, The New York Times reports.

The plan was first announced in September by President Joe Biden, who directed the Labor Department to invoke its emergency powers over the safety of workplaces to require businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations for all employees. Workers who refuse to get vaccinated must undergo weekly testing.

Also on Thursday, the administration unveiled new emergency regulations for healthcare workers—including those at nursing homes caring for elderly and sick residents who are at high risk for infection. All 17 million workers at healthcare facilities receiving either Medicare or Medicaid funding must be vaccinated by January 4.

Biden previously had imposed vaccine requirements on federal workers and companies that receive federal contracts.

But the new rule covering employees of all large private businesses is a more dramatic use of his executive power, prompting some state officials to criticize the move and threaten to try to stop it.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group that represents American retailers, including major chains; said on Thursday that a vaccine mandate from the Biden administration for large private employers would “impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season.”

“Retailers have consistently requested that the administration take public comment on this new vaccine mandate,” David French, the group’s senior vice president for government relations, said in a statement. “It is critical that the rule not cause unnecessary disruption to the economy, exacerbate the pre-existing work force shortage, or saddle retailers; who are already taking considerable steps to keep their employees and customers safe, with needless additional requirements and regulatory burdens.”

Research contact: @nytimes