Biden’s carbon-neutral order praised for ‘aligning government power with climate goals’ – as it happened

2 months ago

Biden’s carbon-neutral order praised for ‘aligning government power with climate goals’ – as it happened

The Guardian

Today's politics recap

  • Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for the federal government to be carbon-neutral by 2050. “As the single largest land owner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” the order says.
  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection indicated it will move forward with plans to hold Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. The news comes one day after Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, announced he would no longer cooperate with investigators out of deference to the former president’s claims of executive privilege over certain records. Meadows is suing Nancy Pelosi and members of the committee over subpoenas issued.
  • Lab tests indicate three doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine provide effective protection against the Omicron variant. In response to the news, Biden encouraged all eligible Americans to get their vaccine booster shot as quickly as possible. “This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet,” the president said.
  • The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70. The bill passed despite criticism from progressive lawmakers, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
  • The House overwhelmingly approved legislation to sanction China for goods produced by the forced labor of Muslim Uyghurs. The vote was 428-1 on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans imports of goods produced in internment camps. The Senate has already approved a similar measure.

– Joan E Greve and Maanvi Singh

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation to sanction China for goods produced by the forced labor of Muslim Uyghurs.

The vote was 428-1 on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans imports of goods produced in internment camps. “This is not a partisan issue,” said Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. “It is a human rights issue.” The Senate has already passed a similar measure.

The sanctions follow a diplomatic boycott by the White House of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing over China’s human rights record.

The bill would task the Department of Homeland Security to create a list of entities that work with the Chinese government in its effort to repress members of the Uyghur minority and ban those goods. The bill also asks officials to assume all goods made in the Xinjiang province, where Uyghurs are being subjected to forced labor, are banned unless the commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection specifically allows an exception.

Updated

Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the House select committee investigating the insurrection, told reporters that she and her fellow committee members “look forward to litigating” Meadows’ lawsuit.

Here’s more background on Mark Meadows, what the select committee is seeking from him, and his history of non-cooperation, from my colleague Joan E Greve:

Updated

Mark Meadows has sued Nancy Pelosi and committee investigating insurrection

Mark Meadows has sued the House speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection. The former White House chief of staff is facing contempt proceedings after refusing to cooperate with the committee, which has sought information about Donald Trump’s role in instigating the capitol riot.

The lawsuit asks the court to toss out the committee’s subpoenas. “Mr Meadows, a witness, has been put in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims,” the suit says.

Trump has also filed his own lawsuit against the committee. The former president and his associates have claimed executive privilege shields confidential communications between them – but Joe Biden’s administration has waived the right to executive privilege in this case.

The House has already voted to hold another Trump associate, Steve Bannon, in contempt for refusing to cooperate. The committee has also recommended holding Jeffrey Clark, a former justice department lawyer, in contempt.

Updated

In an upcoming Masterclass episode, Hillary Clinton shares what she would have said in her 2016 presidential victory speech, had she won the election.

In an excerpt of the Masterclass released by NBC’s Today, Clinton begins her speech: “My fellow Americans, today you’ve sent a message to the whole world. Our values endure, our democracy stands strong and our motto remains ‘E pluribus unum’. Out of many, one. We will not be defined only by our differences. We will not be an us vs them country. The American dream is big enough for everyone.”

“Fundamentally, this election challenged us to decide what it means to be an American in the 21st century,” she says.

The former presidential candidate and secretary of state is teaching a Masterclass on “the power of resilience”.

In introducing her speech, Clinton says: “I’ve never shared this with anybody. I’ve never read it out loud. But it helps to encapsulate who I am, what I believe in and what my hopes were for the kind of country that I want for my grandchildren, and that I want for the world.”

Updated

Gloria Oladipo reports:

Progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spoken out about the hypocrisy of gun-wielding Christmas card photos, an emerging trend among several Republic lawmakers who have posted holiday photos showing themselves and their family holding military-style rifles.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez called out far-right congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who had posted a picture of her family, including her small children, holding rifles in front of a Christmas tree.

“Tell me again where Christ said ‘use the commemoration of my birth to flex violent weapons for personal political gain’?” said Ocasio-Cortez, recalling back in 2015 when conservatives declared that there was a “war on Christmas”, with companies like Starbucks facing threats of boycott.

“lol @ all the years Republicans spent on cultural hysteria of society ‘erasing Christmas and it’s meaning’ when they’re doing that fine all on their own.”

In addition to Boebert’s gun-themed Christmas photo, Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie recently posted a picture of his family holding rifles while posing in front of a Christmas tree, with the caption: “Merry Christmas! PS: Santa, please bring ammo.”

The photo was posted only days after a school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, located an hour outside of the state’s capitol, where four students died and seven people were injured.

Read more:

The attorney general of California said his office will investigate the police department of Torrance, California following a Los Angeles Times investigation revealing that officers exchanged racist text messages.

The investigation is “part of an effort to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the department’s policies and practices,” the attorney general Rob Bonta’s office said. “The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct, and follows a request for assistance by the Torrance Chief of Police.”

The Times reported that police officers had exchanged racist and anti-Semitic messages:

The officers’ comments spared no color or creed: They joked about “gassing” Jewish people, assaulting members of the LGBTQ community, using violence against suspects and lying during an investigation into a police shooting, according to district attorney’s office records reviewed by The Times.

Frequently, hateful comments were targeted at Black people. Officers called Black men “savages,”and several variations of the N-word, according to documents reviewed by The Times. The officers also shared instructions on how to tie a noose and a picture of a stuffed animal being lynched inside Torrance’s police headquarters, according to the documents.

The Times reported that the 15 officers on administrative leave over their involment in such exchanges were also involved in “least seven serious or fatal uses of force against Black or Latino men since 2013”.

“Police departments are on the front lines of that fight every day as they work to protect the people of our state,” Bonta said in a statement. “However, where there is evidence of potentially pervasive bias or discrimination, it can undermine the trust that is critical for public safety and our justice system.”

The head of Instagram began testimony before US lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon about protecting children online, in the latest congressional hearing scrutinizing the social media platform’s impact on young users.

Adam Mosseri defended the platform and called for the creation of an industry body to determine best practices to help keep young people safe online. Mosseri said in written testimony before the Senate commerce consumer protection panel the industry body should address “how to verify age, how to design age-appropriate experiences, and how to build parental controls”.

He also suggested Instagram may abandon its engagement-based algorithm and release a chronological timeline in the first quarter of 2022, a departure from its current controversial system.

“We all want teens to be safe online,” Mosseri said in opening statements. “The internet isn’t going away, and I believe there’s important work that we can do together – industry and policymakers - to raise the standards across the internet to better serve and protect young people.”

Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), have been facing global criticism over the ways their services affect the mental health, body image and online safety of younger users.
In opening statements, Senator Richard Blumenthal promised to be “ruthless” in the hearing, saying “the time for self policing and self regulation is over”.

“Self policing depends on trust, and the trust is gone,” he said. “The magnitude of these problems requires both and broad solutions and accountability which has been lacking so far.”

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for the federal government to be carbon-neutral by 2050. “As the single largest land owner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” the order says.
  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection indicated it will move forward with plans to hold Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. The news comes one day after Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, announced he would no longer cooperate with investigators out of deference to the former president’s claims of executive privilege over certain records.
  • Lab tests indicate three doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine provide effective protection against the Omicron variant. In response to the news, Biden encouraged all eligible Americans to get their vaccine booster shot as quickly as possible. “This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet,” the president said.
  • The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70. The bill passed despite criticism from progressive lawmakers, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Outlining his economic vision for the country, Joe Biden differentiated himself from progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist.

“I’m a capitalist,” Biden said. “I’m a good friend of Bernie’s, but we disagree. I’m not a socialist. I’m a capitalist. You should be able to make a million or a hundred million bucks, if you can. But pay your fair share.”

The president’s speech in Kansas City has now concluded, and he will soon start his trip back to Washington.

Joe Biden once again poked fun at his predecessor, Donald Trump, who repeatedly declared “infrastructure week” without ever signing any actual infrastructure bill.

“I don’t think I could take one more phrase that it’s going to be infrastructure week,” Biden said as he touted the $1.2tn bill he signed last month.

The president added, “Guess what? It’s gonna be infrastructure decade now, man.”

Updated

Joe Biden is now delivering remarks in Kansas City, Missouri, on how the bipartisan infrastructure law will benefit the state’s residents through new jobs and improved roads and bridges.

But before beginning his infrastructure speech, Biden took a moment to remember Bob Dole, the former Republican senator and presidential nominee who died on Sunday.

The president noted that Dole grew up just a few hours away from the site of his speech today, in the small town of Russell, Kansas.

“For those like me who had the honor of calling him a friend, Bob Dole was an American giant, a man of extraordinary courage – both physical and moral courage,” Biden said.

“We didn’t agree on everything, but I always admired and respected him and his willingness to work with anyone, in any party when it mattered most. And our nation owes Bob Dole a debt of gratitude for the remarkable service and a life well lived.”

Updated

John Bowman, managing director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Joe Biden’s new executive order “aligns the government’s enormous buying power with the nation’s climate goals”.

“Shifting to clean energy – in federal buildings, vehicles and power purchases – and using clean building materials for infrastructure projects will speed the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Bowman said in a statement.

“It will help scale up efficiency and renewable power. And it twins with the climate investments embodied in the Build Back Better Act to set the country on the path to achieve the carbon reductions we need.”

Updated

Elon Musk criticized new incentives and infrastructure for electric vehicles in a huge spending bill backed by Joe Biden, saying he would “delete” the measures and even ditch the entire legislation if he had the power.

Musk, the multibillionaire founder of the electric car company Tesla, said that if he were in charge of the federal government, “I would just can this whole bill. That’s my recommendation.”

The entrepreneur, speaking at a Wall Street Journal summit on Monday, added: “It might be better if the bill doesn’t pass because we’ve spent so much money, you know, it’s like the federal budget deficit is insane.”

The nearly $2tn reconciliation package, called the Build Back Better bill, carries the weight of Biden’s agenda across numerous policy areas and has been hailed as the biggest, and arguably first, legislation in US history to tackle the climate crisis.

The bill passed the House of Representatives last month and Democrats hope it can navigate through a sharply divided Senate before Christmas.

Biden signs order to make federal government carbon-neutral by 2050

Joe Biden has signed an executive order calling for the the federal government to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

“As the single largest land owner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” the order says.

The AP reports:

It directs that government buildings use 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030; that the U.S. fleet of cars and trucks become all-electric by 2035; and that federal contracts for goods and services be carbon-free by 2050.

Government buildings should be carbon-free by 2045, including a 50% emissions cut by 2032, Biden said.

The executive action is a part of Biden’s commitment to support the growth of clean energy and clean technology industries, while accelerating U.S. progress toward achieving a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035, the White House said.

Updated

Joe Biden has arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, where he will soon deliver remarks on “how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers for Missourians by rebuilding roads and bridges, upgrading public transit, replacing water infrastructure, and creating good-paying, union jobs,” per his official schedule.

The president was greeted at the airport by Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Joe Biden is greeted upon his arrival at Kansas City International Airport.
Joe Biden is greeted upon his arrival at Kansas City International Airport. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The top elections official in Colorado has made a plea for better security protection as a result of threats received by her and staff, driven by extremists who continue to spread the lie that the 2020 presidential election was actually won by Donald Trump.

Jena Griswold, the secretary of state for Colorado, a Democrat, is not alone among election officials who have been receiving threats of violence and worse as divisions widened over the conduct of elections in the year since Joe Biden won the White House in November 2020.

Jena Griswold holding a news conference last year.
Jena Griswold holding a news conference last year. Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP

Griswold reported one incoming online message as saying: “I know where you sleep. I see you sleeping. Be afraid, be very afraid. I hope you die”, the Colorado Sun reported.

The outlet writes:

Griswold’s profile has risen in recent months as she has appeared on national television to lambast GOP [Republican] efforts to question the nation’s voting systems and the 2020 presidential election results.

She’s also been at the center of a feud with Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican who has spread baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election being stolen and who is under federal, state and local criminal investigation for her alleged role in a breach of her county’s election system...

Nonpartisan legislative staff wrote in a budget briefing document that the Colorado Department of State “has significant safety concerns” for Griswold and that the department has not consistently or reliably had access to physical security for her.

The Colorado State Patrol has at times provided security for Griswold, but the agency sometimes declines requests because threats against her “don’t meet their standards for actionability” or because it lacks the capacity, according to the briefing document. The agency is required to provide protection only for Gov. Jared Polis or for members of the legislature when statehouse leadership makes a request.

“Like other agencies responsible for carrying out elections across the country, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has experienced an unprecedented spike in threats toward the secretary of state and the office,” said Annie Orloff, a spokeswoman for Griswold. “Election administrators and workers have been the target of harassment, vitriol and violent threats.”

The secretary of state’s office says the threats aren’t just scary; they also are hurting efforts to hire and retain the workforce needed to administer elections.

Now, Griswold’s office has felt obliged to ask the Colorado legislature to provide $200,000 annually to pay for guards and other security measures to protect those receiving a sharply-elevated and intense level of threats from members of the public.

The Guardian’s Sam Levine has looked at the pressure on election officials, who never sought to be high profile.

Updated

The US has returned the first two migrants to Mexico since restarting a program begun under the Trump administration, MPP, also known as Remain in Mexico, in order to remove asylum seekers from US soil, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today.

A family arrives at an improvised camp of asylum seekers and refugees at El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, earlier this week.
A family arrives at an improvised camp of asylum seekers and refugees at El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, earlier this week. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Reuters reports:

The United States and Mexico last week agreed to relaunch the controversial scheme known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that obliges asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration hearings, in keeping with a federal court order.

Mexico made the restart conditional on Washington meeting certain criteria, including offering vaccines to asylum seekers.

The first two migrants returned under the revamped scheme entered Mexico at a border crossing in Ciudad Juarez opposite El Paso, Texas, according to an IOM spokesperson.

One of the two men, who identified himself as Enrique Manzanares from Nicaragua, said he felt a little sad, but gave thanks to God that he was still alive.

“In the end, nothing was lost,” Manzanares told Reuters. “Some of us make it, others don’t.”

A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)said the Department of Homeland Security began the court-mandated re-implementation of MPP at one location today.

“For operational security reasons, DHS is not sharing details such as location of initial returns or number of individuals enrolled,” the CBP spokesperson said.

Once fully operational, MPP returns to Mexico will take place at seven ports of entry in San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville, the CBP said.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has struggled to reverse many hardline immigration policies put in place by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, and is facing a record number of migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden ended MPP soon after his inauguration in January as he sought to pursue what he called a more humane approach to immigration. But a federal judge ruled Biden’s move did not follow proper procedure, and in August ordered MPP reinstated.

Here’s the Guardian’s David Agren writing on the eve of the resumption of MPP.

Updated

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection indicated it will move forward with plans to hold Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. The news comes one day after Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, announced he would no longer cooperate with investigators out of deference to the former president’s claims of executive privilege over certain records.
  • Lab tests indicate three doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine provide effective protection against the Omicron variant. In response to the news, Joe Biden encouraged all eligible Americans to get their vaccine booster shot as quickly as possible. “This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet,” the president said.
  • The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70. The bill passed despite criticism from progressive lawmakers, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Despite his severe warnings to Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden said he is not currently considering deploying US troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters this morning. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our Nato allies, if they were to attack, under article 5. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend ... to Ukraine.”

The president added that the US response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also depend upon the reactions of fellow Nato allies.

“But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now,” Biden said. “What will happen is, there will be severe consequences.”

Updated

Biden warns of 'economic consequences like none he’s ever seen' if Putin invades Ukraine

Joe Biden took a few questions from reporters this morning, as he left the White House to start his trip to Kansas City, Missouri.

Asked about his summit yesterday with Vladimir Putin, Biden said, “I was very straightforward. There were no minced words.”

Regarding Russia’s increased troop presence along its border with Ukraine, Biden said, “If in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences – economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.”

Biden said he believed that Russia’s president understood the significance of the warning, and he noted their teams have been in “constant contact”.

Updated

Joe Biden celebrated the news of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine’s effectiveness against the omicron variant and encouraged all eligible Americans to get their booster shot.

“The new data from Pfizer on vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is encouraging. This reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the highest protection yet,” the president said on Twitter.

“Anyone who is eligible and has not been boosted should go get a booster today.”

Updated

Three Pfizer jabs likely to protect against Omicron, tests suggest

Three shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are likely to provide effective protection against the Omicron variant, laboratory tests suggest.

The vaccine makers said they were keeping the option of an updated Omicron-based vaccine on the table, however, and could produce it by March 2022 if needed.

In the first official statement from vaccine manufacturers on the likely efficacy of their shot against Omicron, BioNTech/Pfizer said that two vaccine doses resulted in significantly lower neutralising antibodies but that a third dose of their vaccine appeared to bring antibody protection up to a level equivalent to two vaccine doses against the original strain.

The findings are broadly in line with a preliminary study published by researchers at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa on Tuesday, showing that Omicron can partially evade protection from two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Updated

Mark Meadows has officially failed to appear for his scheduled deposition with the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, per ABC News.

Meadows, the former chief of staff to Donald Trump, indicated yesterday he would no longer cooperate with investigators, and the panel is now moving forward with plans to hold him in criminal contempt.

In his letter to Mark Meadows’ attorney, select committee chair Bennie Thompson noted the former Trump aide turned over some documents to investigators before deciding to stop cooperating.

“The text messages you did produce include a November 6, 2020, text exchange with a Member of Congress apparently about appointing alternate electors in certain states as par of a plan that the Member acknowledged would be ‘highly controversial’ and to which Mr. Meadows apparently said, ‘I love it’; an early January 2021 text message exchange between Mr. Meadows and an organizer of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse; and text messages about the need for the former President to issue a public statement that could have stopped the January 6th attack on the Capitol,” Thompson said.

“All of those documents raise issues about which the Select Committee would like to question Mr. Meadows and about which you appear to agree are not subject to a claim of privilege. Yet, despite your recent agreement to have Mr. Meadows to come in and answer questions in a deposition, Mr. Meadows now, once again, refuses to do so.”

Updated

The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly and David Smith report:

Mark Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, wrote in a letter on Tuesday that a deposition would be “untenable” because the 6 January select committee “has no intention of respecting boundaries” concerning questions that Donald Trump has claimed are off-limits because of executive privilege.

Executive privilege covers the confidentiality or otherwise of communications between a president and his aides. The Biden administration has waived it in the investigation of 6 January. Trump and allies entwined in events leading up to the storming of the Capitol, around which five people died, have invoked it.

Terwilliger also said he learned over the weekend that the committee had issued a subpoena to a third-party communications provider that he said would include “intensely personal” information.

In an interview on the conservative Fox News network, the attorney added: “We have made efforts over many weeks to reach an accommodation with the committee.”

But he said the committee’s approach to negotiations and to other witnesses meant Meadows would withdraw cooperation.

Capitol attack committee has 'no choice' but to advance contempt proceedings against Meadows

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has indicated it will advance a measure to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the panel.

The Democratic chair of the committee, Bennie Thompson, has released a letter to Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, indicating the panel’s plans.

“The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution,” Thompson said.

The news comes one day after Meadows indicated he would no longer cooperate with investigators, claiming the committee is disrespecting Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege over certain records.

Updated

A group of senators held a press conference this morning to voice their criticism of the overhaul of the military justice system included in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been pushing for an overhaul for years, argued the House’s proposal would not deliver justice for sexual assault survivors in the military.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a military veteran and a sexual assault survivor, said she was “disappointed” in the efforts to change Gillibrand’s original proposal and called for a standalone vote on that measure.

Under Gillibrand’s bill, the prosecution of serious crimes, including sexual assault, would be entirely removed from the chain of command. Under the House-passed approval, military commanders would still conduct the trials.

“As someone who’s been a prosecutor, it makes no sense,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said of the House proposal.

The House-passed version of the defense bill includes an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault against service members.

The final version of the bill calls for the appointment of special prosecutors outside the chain of command to handle the prosecution of sexual assault, murder and kidnapping, among other crimes.

However, the new system would still allow military commanders to conduct the trials and choose jury members, a provision that sparked fierce criticism from advocates.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has pushed for an overhaul of the military justice system for years, argued the proposal was grossly insufficient and pledged to keep fighting for further change.

“As sexual assault survivor advocates warned would happen for months, House and Senate Armed Services leadership have gutted our bipartisan military justice reforms behind closed doors, doing a disservice to our service members and our democracy,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

“This bill represents a major setback on behalf of service members, women and survivors in particular. However, we will not stop seeking true military justice reforms for our brave service members and I will continue to call for an up or down floor vote.”

House passes $768bn defense bill in bipartisan vote, despite progressive criticism

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

The House passed a $768bn defense bill last night, in a vote of 363-70, with 169 Democrats and 194 Republicans backing the compromise measure.

The National Defense Authorization Act includes a 2.7% pay raise for troops, an overhaul of the military justice system aimed at combating sexual assault and a $25bn bump in spending over what Joe Biden had requested.

Some progressives, who had hoped to curb military spending now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, complained about the higher price tag of the bill.

“It is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can’t ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine,” congressman Jamaal Bowman said.

But Democratic leaders defended the final version of the bill, arguing it will help ensure America’s military readiness in a rapidly changing world.

“The House, under the leadership of Chairman Adam Smith, has passed a strong, bipartisan defense bill that will keep America safe, defend our servicemembers and their families and advance our nation’s leadership in the world,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“As the House sends this legislation to the Senate, we will continue to deliver results for the people.”

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

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