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Senate committees abruptly postpone votes on Neera Tanden, signaling pessimism about Biden’s candidate.

Two Senate committees abruptly postponed their planned votes Wednesday to advance the nomination of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, signaling pessimism that she might gain support sufficient to be confirmed by an equally divided Senate.

The Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee have both postponed scheduled votes, according to three people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decisions.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, chairman of the Homeland Security committee, told reporters on Wednesday that “people need a little more time to assess it.”

He declined to give details, adding that “we are still having discussions with people.”

Ms Tanden’s nomination has been in jeopardy since Friday, when West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III announced he would not support her, citing concerns over public criticism she leveled at lawmakers in both left in Twitter messages before his selection.

White House officials remained adamant that Mr Biden planned to back Ms Tanden, even as moderate Republican senators whom Democrats had hoped would provide the votes necessary to confirm that she had announced her intention to step down. oppose it. With Manchin in the “no” column, at least one Republican would be needed to join all of the supporting Democrats.

The voting delays came as a surprise Wednesday morning, after Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who heads the budget committee, told reporters on Tuesday his committee was moving forward.

Bipartisan support is building for Shalanda Young, currently chosen by Mr Biden as deputy director of the agency, to take Ms Tanden’s place as the agency’s head candidate. She was the House Democrats’ personnel director on the appropriations committee, the first black woman to hold that position.

Ms Young, who enjoys strong support from House Democrats, helped resolve the compromise that ended the country’s longest government shutdown in 2019. She has also served as a senior negotiator for relief programs staff. coronaviruses approved by Congress in 2020, work that has earned him bipartisan respect. – and preemptive approval from Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama on Wednesday.

“She’s smart, she knows the process inside and out, and she’s an honest broker who has demonstrated her ability to work with both sides and get things done,” said Mr. Shelby, the top Republican on the Credit Committee. of the Senate, in a press release. . “She would have my support.”

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, reiterated Mr Biden’s support for Ms Tanden on Wednesday, rejecting any discussion of an alternative candidate.

“It’s a numbers game,” Ms. Psaki said during a White House briefing. “It’s about convincing a Republican to support his nomination.”

When asked if Ms Tanden had offered to withdraw from the exam, Ms Psaki replied, “This is not the stage we are in.”

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Candidate Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah”. He now has to face it.

WASHINGTON – As a candidate, President Biden left no doubts about what he thought about how the United States should deal with Saudi Arabia.

His plan, he said, was to make the Saudis “pay the price and actually become the outcast that they are.” Mr. Biden has been equally outspoken about the Saudi royal family. There is “very little social cash value in the current government in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Now, as president, Mr. Biden must deal with this government whether it has cash value or not. And he must navigate a series of campaign pledges to halt arms deliveries and publicize U.S. intelligence findings on the role of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and de facto head of the country, in the murder. of the dissident and journalist. Jamal Khashoggi.

This process seems likely to begin this week when Mr Biden plans to have his first conversation with the ailing King Salman. And while the call will be full of diplomatic banter, officials say, the real goal is to warn him that the intelligence report is going to be declassified and released. The White House wouldn’t say much about all of the carefully sequenced events, other than that no conversations between the two had yet been scheduled – although clearly one was underway.

“The president’s intention, like the intention of this government, is to recalibrate our engagement with Saudi Arabia,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said on Wednesday.

While the Trump administration has dealt at length with the Crown Prince – who was in frequent contact with Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to former President Donald J. Trump – Mr. Biden maintains that King Salman is still the head of the country . , and the only one with whom he will speak directly. Since the Crown Prince has been Minister of Defense, he has been told to contact Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

But the issue of protocol is less important than the radical change in the way the Saudis are treated.

Almost three weeks ago, at the State Department, Biden ordered an end to arms sales and other support to the Saudis for a war in Yemen that he called a “humanitarian and strategic disaster.” U.S. defensive weapons will continue to circulate, largely to protect against Iranian missiles and drones, but Mr. Biden was keeping his election promise to end the Trump-era practice of forgiving Saudi human rights abuses in order to to preserve jobs in American arms. industry.

For the administration, going directly after Prince Mohammed, the ruthless and ruthless son of the king known as MBS, is a totally different type of problem. The content of the assessment, primarily written by the CIA, is no mystery: In November 2018, the New York Times reported that intelligence officials concluded that the Crown Prince had ordered the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, who had been drugged and dismembered in Saudi Arabia. Consulate in Istanbul.

The agency backed up the conclusion with two rounds of communications: interceptions of the crown prince’s calls in the days leading up to the murder and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.

The Trump administration has issued sanctions against 17 Saudis implicated in the murder. But the administration never declassified the results – even stripped of sources and methods – and avoided questions about Prince Mohammed. Senior Trump officials often got angry when asked about their commitment to follow the evidence. They have often asked in return whether the United States should abandon a major alliance due to the death of a single dissident and journalist.

Mr. Biden’s view was the opposite. Now Saudi officials are trying to determine whether the new president seeks to isolate the future Saudi leader – and will try to prevent him from becoming the leader of the nation – by imposing sanctions on him and leaving him open to criminal prosecution.

“I certainly wouldn’t say that his concerns or his views have changed,” Ms Psaki said when pressed for Mr Biden to qualify Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state. Still, it seems unlikely that this term will be used in the diplomatic reading the administration will provide after the appeal.

The big question is what action Mr. Biden decides to take against the crown prince.

“I hope his message is that we must sanction MBS with exactly the same sanction that we imposed on the other 17 Saudi accomplices in this murder,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, an organization Mr. Khashoggi started. “A travel ban and an asset freeze. Anything less will make it look like we are giving it special treatment and undermining the sanctions we have imposed.

“Even the Trump administration has found itself compelled to take action” against the other 17, Ms. Whitson said.

“The message to the Saudis must be to get rid of this guy,” she said.

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Health secretary candidate Becerra vows to ‘find a common cause’ as Republicans seek to paint him as extreme.

President Biden’s candidate for health secretary Xavier Becerra pledged Tuesday morning to work to “restore confidence in public health institutions” and “seek to find a common cause” with his critics, as Republicans sought to portray him as an unqualified liberal extremist. For the job.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, Mr. Becerra, the Attorney General of California, was toasted by Republicans who complained that they had no experience in the profession of health and targeted its support for the Affordable Care Act. and for abortion rights.

“Basically, you spoke out against pro-life,” Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun told Becerra. He asked if Mr Becerra would pledge not to use taxpayer money for abortions, which is currently prohibited by federal law, except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, or in the ‘incest or rape.

“I will commit to obeying the law,” replied Becerra, leaving himself some leeway should the law change.

Tuesday’s appearance was the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Becerra; he is due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Despite the tough questions, Mr Becerra appears to be heading for confirmation in a Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, but with Vice President Kamala Harris on hand to break the tie.

If confirmed, Mr Becerra will immediately face the daunting task of leading the department at a critical time, during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and has taken particularly devastating havoc on people from color. He would be the first Latino to serve as secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Although Mr. Becerra, a former congressman, did not have direct experience as a medical professional, he took a keen interest in health policy in Washington and helped draft the Law on Health Care. affordable care. He has most recently been at the forefront of legal efforts to defend it, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the law from dismantling Republicans.

Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have taken hold of the ACA’s defense of Becerra as well as his support for abortion rights.

The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, on Monday released a statement signed by dozens of Conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr Becerra had a “troubling record” on ” policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious freedom. “

They specifically cited his vote against banning “late abortion” and accused him of using his role as attorney general “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a group that advocates the law. to abortion. Asked by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney about the late abortion vote, Becerra noted his wife is an obstetrician-gynecologist and said he would “work to find common ground ” On the question. Mr. Romney was not impressed. “It looks like we’re not going to find common ground there,” he replied.

Democrats point to Mr Becerra’s experience as the head of one of the country’s largest justice departments through a particularly trying time, and his up-from-the-bootstraps biography. The son of Mexican immigrants, he studied at Stanford University both undergraduate and in law. He served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming attorney general of his home state in 2017.

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Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential candidate, has advanced lung cancer.

Bob Dole, the former senator and 1996 Republican presidential candidate, announced Thursday that he had advanced lung cancer.

“Recently I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer,” Mr. Dole said in a press release. “My first treatment will start on Monday. While I certainly have some hurdles to overcome, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges.

Mr. Dole, 97, represented Kansas in the Senate for more than 25 years, including 11 years as the Republican leader of the chamber. He gave up his post as majority leader to run for the White House in 1996, only to lose to President Bill Clinton by a wide margin, 379 to 159 electoral votes.

He has faced health challenges for decades, starting with a battlefield injury during World War II, during which he served as an army second lieutenant. He was hit by machine gun fire, which nearly killed him and permanently restricted his use of his right arm. He then supported the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, and then pushed the United States to accede to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mr Dole – the oldest former presidential candidate or president, a year older than former president Jimmy Carter – revealed his lung cancer diagnosis a day after the death of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh of the same disease.

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Video: Education secretary candidate calls for investment in pandemic recovery

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Education secretary candidate calls for investment in pandemic recovery

During his confirmation hearing, Miguel A. Cardona, President Biden’s candidate for education secretary, said additional funding would be crucial to help schools across the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Our country’s educational challenges did not start with the pandemic, but they have exacerbated the inequalities in our education system. These inequalities will persist and prevent this country’s potential to tackle head-on. And so it is – it is, and so it is our responsibility, and it would be my greatest privilege, if confirmed, to create opportunities to emerge from this crisis. Investing in public education changes lives. And it saves lives. I saw it and I lived it. And I know that our challenges ahead are problems that we can overcome together. As a saying goes in Spanish, “en la unión está la fuerza”. In unity there is strength. We gain strength by uniting. And like our schools, we gain strength when we create a culture of community. And we are in the midst of a pandemic and our learners – social and emotional development – the needs of counselors are greater. Many of our students have lost loved ones, suffered trauma due to the loss of their jobs by their families. There have been so many changes. We are going to need more counselors in our schools. We’re going to have to make sure we have summer programs. We’re going to have to make sure we have an extended day. If we really want to recover, we really have to invest now or we’ll pay later. And I think the funds we’re talking about right now are really meant to help us in a long-term recovery process, avoiding layoffs, when we need more teachers, not less.

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Video: Biden’s Commerce Secretary’s Candidate Testifies Before the Senate

new video loaded: Biden’s Commerce Secretary candidate testifies before Senate

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Biden’s Commerce Secretary Candidate Testifies Before Senate

Governor Gina M. Raimondo of Rhode Island, President Biden’s candidate for trade secretary, testified before the Senate on Tuesday about her plans to help the economy.

“This confirmation hearing is just the start of our conversation on vital policy issues, including responding to the economic damage caused by the pandemic, investing in our people and small businesses, ensuring that American workers and manufacturers can compete in the global market. “The Secretary of Commerce will play an important role in strengthening our economy and in trying to overcome the pandemic and recover from its economic impacts. I think this is a vital job of the Secretary of Commerce as we let’s continue to see the impacts of Covid on our economy. “The Commerce Department has a simple but vital mission: to boost well-paying jobs, enable entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses be These are the same priorities that have guided my own life in my own career. In this time of overlapping crisis, the Department of Commerce must be a partner with businesses and workers to help them innovate and grow.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a candidate for the office. Will other Trump allies follow suit?

In October, when Ivanka Trump described herself as “pro-life, and without any excuse,” her comment was considered the surest sign to date that Trump’s ambitious spotlight-seeking daughter was serious in his own career in Republican politics.

Over the past four years, Ms. Trump, 39, has undergone a political transformation from being a registered Democrat in New York to what she has described as a “proud Trump Republican.” During the 2020 campaign, she was viewed by Trump campaign officials as her father’s primary surrogate, often speaking on his behalf to women in the suburbs. For years, she promoted articles and asked her staff to come up with stories about how she rivaled the top Democratic presidential candidates in her fundraising abilities.

She is still packing her mansion in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood, but will be moving in the coming weeks to Florida, where her advisers say she is weighing her options on the election. That includes not popping a trial balloon on a potential main challenge next year for Mr Rubio, who Republican critics say could be vulnerable because he did not vote to support objections to the state voters.

Other observers have dismissed the scenario as a difficult way to start a political career and said Mr Rubio should take it less seriously after the Capitol riot on January 6. requires seven years of residence. Some people who know her say that her ambitions are higher, that she loves the “first woman president” ring, and that there is simply nothing wrong with keeping her name afloat.

She has surprising allies who promote her. “Ivanka would be a great candidate, with her presence, grace and beauty,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who received Mr. Trump’s pardon. Once Ms. Trump’s enemy in the White House, he now intends to support her. “It is also the most populist because it focuses entirely on working families,” he said.

“From Huckabee to Lara Trump to Don Jr. and Kayleigh McEnany, this is the new vanguard of the MAGA movement,” added Mr. Bannon. “I expect these people to show up in either 2022 or 2024.”

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Candidate Biden vows to follow foreign influence over domestic extremist groups

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s candidate to be the next director of national intelligence said on Tuesday that the new administration would step up efforts to examine foreign interference in US politics, including efforts abroad to influence domestic extremist groups like those linked to the QAnon Conspiracy Theory Movement.

Avril D. Haines, Mr Biden’s candidate, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that she would work to create a center within the intelligence community on foreign malicious influences and help the FBI and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Homeland Security to a public written assessment of the threat from QAnon. .

Even before a pro-Trump mob hit the Capitol on January 6, Biden’s transition team had discussed how intelligence agencies could increase control over foreign power efforts to influence extremist groups in America. .

But in the wake of the riot, and according to reports that Russia and other countries have tried to amplify misinformation about it, Biden’s team has put even more emphasis on how to counter national extremist groups.

The pro-Trump crowd included followers of QAnon, a vast online movement that falsely claims that President Trump is on a crusade to rid the world of satanic Democratic Party-organized pedophiles and Hollywood celebrities.

Intelligence officials have followed the spread of QAnon theories in Germany, Japan and other countries. And people who spoke to Biden’s transition team say the incoming administration wants to build on that work to see if foreign governments in turn have attempted to promote the spread of QAnon, or others. far right movements in America.

Several Democratic senators asked Haines on Tuesday about the threat from right-wing extremist groups. In her responses, Ms. Haines must have walked a fine line, as the restrictions limit the information intelligence agencies can collect about Americans and American groups.

She said she would ensure that agencies examine “the relationships between people in the United States and outside,” but clarified that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security should take the lead in such investigations. .

Ms. Haines, an expert in international law, has worked for the Obama and George W. Bush administrations in positions for the National Security Council, the State Department and the CIA.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Dan Coats, a former director of national intelligence, described some of Ms Haines’ colorful backgrounds. Prior to going to law school and joining the federal government, Ms. Haines had a career in aircraft restoration, running an independent bookstore, and studying physics, which prompted her description as ” the least likely spy ”in a 2013 profile by veteran national security reporter Daniel Klaidman.

If confirmed, Ms Haines will head the office of the Director of National Intelligence and help oversee the country’s intelligence agencies, which now number 18 with the addition of the Space Force’s intelligence arm this month. .

She will be tasked with rebuilding an intelligence community that has been openly excoriated by Mr. Trump for his assessment that Russia intervened on his behalf in the 2016 election and depoliticizing the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico, urged Haines on what intelligence agencies could do against “radicalized national groups in the United States.” He noted that the State Department had a process for designating foreign groups as terrorist organizations.

“We don’t have any kind of process for national terrorist organizations,” he said.

Mr. Heinrich pointed to a letter he and other Senate Democrats wrote to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security about QAnon’s “spreading of disinformation”. He asked Ms Haines if she would commit to contributing to this assessment. She said she would seek answers on how “foreign influence operations” affected QAnon.

“The intelligence community focuses on foreign intelligence and foreign threats,” she said. “But there is a critical role he can and does play in supporting the work of others.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who is on the verge of becoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted that the rise of extremist groups was not a phenomenon limited to the United States.

“We have seen similar right-wing groups spring up in many European countries and a certain level of networking between what is happening in Europe and what is happening in this country,” said Mr Warner.

Since the Jan.6 siege, intelligence officials have seen efforts by China, Iran and Russia to spread violent messages, according to a joint threat assessment by federal law enforcement authorities drafted last week.

On Friday, Democratic and Republican Senate Intelligence Committee leaders jointly asked the current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe for information on “efforts by foreign actors to disrupt the inauguration” as well as information on the how the country’s spy agencies were helping law enforcement warn of new unrest.

Intelligence agencies have followed foreign powers seeking to amplify discussions and disinformation about the riot. This includes Russia’s efforts to push the wrong line that antifa members were responsible for the attack, not right-wing extremists.

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Biden’s homeland security candidate questioned over immigration policy

WASHINGTON – Alejandro N. Mayorkas, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, said at a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would step up efforts to fight terrorism domestic, and he parried Republican questions about his past handling of visas for wealthy foreign investors.

But staying the hearing was another issue that was central to the Trump administration’s agenda and could become the first big fight of the Biden era: what to do with the country’s tense immigration laws and the remnants of restrictive controls at the borders of President Trump.

After his end, Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri announced he would block any Democratic effort to quickly move Mr Mayorkas’ nomination to a confirmation vote.

“Mr. Mayorkas has not given sufficient explanation of how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s pledge to roll back key enforcement and security measures,” Mr Hawley said in a statement. communicated.

The hearing of Mr Mayorkas, who is said to be the first Latino and the first homeland security immigrant secretary, took place as thousands of migrants left Honduras in recent days for the United States, prompting questions on how Mr. Biden will approach the border. questions that dominated the Trump years.

Mr Mayorkas’ appointment also sparked renewed interest from Democrats and former national security officials, concerned about the significant security preparedness failures that contributed to the deadly attack on the Capitol this month.

“The love for this country that I learned from my parents made the January 6 attack on the Capitol all the more horrific,” Mayorkas said in his opening speech. “I will do everything possible to ensure that the tragic loss of human life, the attacks against the police, the desecration of the building which constitutes one of the three pillars of our democracy and the terror felt by you, your colleagues and the staff and everyone present will not reproduce again.

Mr Mayorkas, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, has received support from both immigration advocates and law enforcement for the experience he would bring to a department that is without leadership confirmed by the Senate for almost two years. The agency became a branch of Mr. Trump’s restrictive four-year immigration program that included six executives.

But it was Mr Mayorkas’ previous work in the ministry that drew criticism from Republicans on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman opened the hearing by pressuring Mr Mayorkas over a report by the Inspector General in 2015 that he helped speed up visa reviews for foreign investors while directing the ministry’s legal immigration agency, citizenship and immigration services.

The inspector general, following internal complaints from employees, found that Mr. Mayorkas had personally been involved in three cases in a program that provides visas to certain foreigners who invest in US companies. The businesses included a hotel and casino promoted by Harry Reid, the former Democratic Majority Leader, a Los Angeles film project involving former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, also a Democrat, and an electric car company run by a former Democratic Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe and Tony Rodham, brother of Hillary Clinton.

The report did not conclude that Mr. Mayorkas had broken the law, but that he had left “an appearance of favoritism and special access”.

Mr Mayorkas said on Tuesday he felt compelled to get involved in a “problem-ridden” system. He said there were “hundreds of cases I got involved in at the behest” of members of Congress.

“It’s my job to get involved, to learn about the issues facing the agency, to get involved in those issues and to resolve them,” Mayorkas told the committee. “That’s what I did in this case and the many cases that have come before me that have been presented to me on both sides of the aisle.

Just weeks after Mr. Trump incited an angry mob that stormed the Capitol, the committee pressed Mr. Mayorkas on how the Department of Homeland Security would tackle threats from white supremacy and d right-wing extremism. The department’s leadership under Mr. Trump has been accused by the agency’s former intelligence chief of downplaying the threat of white supremacy and of trying to amplify left-wing violence – accusations the agency has denied .

“The Trump administration has not done a good job of dealing with this very real threat and a threat that we have seen unfold in black churches, mosques and synagogues over the past few years,” the Senator said. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, to Mr. Mayorkas.

Mr Mayorkas said he would support the ministry’s intelligence branch.

“The threat of domestic extremism is one of the greatest threats facing the Department of Homeland Security, and it has unique capabilities to deal with it,” replied Mayorkas. “I look forward to playing a pivotal role in holding the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to account in a non-partisan and non-partisan manner.”

Senators also explained to Mr. Mayorkas how he would balance continued border control with Mr. Biden’s promise to untie many of Mr. Trump’s policies that effectively ended an asylum system meant to provide protection for those fleeing persecution.

When asked by Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford if he would support dismantling parts of Mr. Trump’s border wall, he was evasive.

“The border varies depending on the geography, specific location and the behavior of the individuals around it,” Mayorkas said. “We do not need and should not have a monolithic response to this varied and diverse challenge.”

Rather, he reiterated Mr Biden’s previous statement that he would not build another mile. He also pledged to end a Trump administration program that forced migrants to stay in Mexico as their immigration cases go to court, though he did not specify a timeline.

Mr Mayorkas also told Mr Lankford that he had no plans to dismantle immigration control agencies, including customs policing or customs and border protection, a appeal that was adopted by some Democrats on the left flank of the party.

“I would not abolish them,” Mayorkas said.

Mr Mayorkas also ducked whether he supported a public health emergency declaration the Trump administration used to seal the border to migrant asylum seekers and quickly send them back to Mexico or their home country. ‘origin.

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney has insisted Mayorkas on whether he would allow entry to a caravan of migrants trying to travel to northern hurricane and pandemic-ravaged Honduras.

“If people qualify by law to stay in the United States, we will apply the law,” Mayorkas said. “If they don’t qualify, they won’t.”

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Video: Biden presents candidate for attorney general on the eve of the Capitol riot

TimesVideoBiden Introduces Attorney General Candidate on the Eve of the Capitol Riot While introducing his Attorney General candidate Merrick Garland, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said the nation must restore independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.