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Biden mulls restoring California’s authority to fight car pollution

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President Joe Biden is taking a key step toward restoring California’s ability to set its own limits on air pollution, overturning a move made by former President Donald Trump to undo the state’s authority to set stricter regulations on auto emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday it is “seeking public input on its reconsideration of the Agency’s 2019 action titled The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program Rule (SAFE-1) for the purposes of rescinding the action taken by the prior administration.”

In a statement released Monday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said: “I am a firm believer in California’s long-standing statutory authority to lead. The 2019 decision to revoke the state’s waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars and trucks was legally dubious and an attack on the public’s health and wellbeing.”

California has long had the authority to regulate three key automotive emissions — carbon monoxide, particulates and oxides of nitrogen — and set stricter standards than those covering the rest of the country. Under former President Barack Obama, the state was given additional authority to set mandates for greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the production of CO2 is directly related to fuel consumption, the tight guidelines set by the California Air Resources Board would force a dramatic shift towards electrified vehicles, especially those running entirely on battery power or on hydrogen.

In September 2019, Trump announced his administration would overturn the waiver and also moved to roll back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards set under Obama.

Both moves have been tied up in court since then. Biden administration officials said Monday that eliminating the California waiver “exceeded” the authority of the prior president.

The announcement comes after Biden’s proposal to halve CO2 emissions in the U.S. by 2030. A key part of that effort will be the promotion of renewable energy production and the switch to battery-electric vehicles. The American Jobs Plan would set aside $174 billion for BEVs, with much of that going to create a nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations.

California is far and away the largest market for electrified vehicles, especially BEVs, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order that would begin phasing out the sale of both retail and commercial vehicles that use gas and diesel engines.

As big as it is, California has an even more outsized impact on the auto industry as 13 other states have adopted its emissions rules. All told, they represent about 40 percent of annual U.S. new vehicle sales.

The Trump administration’s attempt to strip California’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions was backed by a number of automakers, including General Motors and Toyota, who argued that a single national standard was needed. Four companies, BMW, Ford, Honda and Volkswagen, backed the state and subsequently reached a emissions compromise plan. GM reversed course after the November 2020 presidential election and also accepted the new agreement.

The Biden administration has signaled it will announce an updated CAFE target in the coming months. Many analysts expect a new approach that could strike a balance between the EPA and California targets.

Last week, 12 U.S. governors sent a letter calling on the Biden administration to set a phased-in ban on sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. California, Massachusetts and Washington have already put bans on the books.

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Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill hits roadblock with tie vote in Senate panel

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WASHINGTON — Democrats hit roadblocks Tuesday as they sought to advance their massive voting and election overhaul bill to the full Senate after a long and contentious session.

A Senate Rules Committee vote to move the legislation forward concluded with a predictable 9-9 tie along party lines, trapping it in the panel until Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., makes a motion to send the measure to the full chamber.

“This is not the last you will hear. This is the beginning, as Sen. Schumer under his rights will be able to bring this bill to the floor,” Senate Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said after the vote.

But Democrats don’t have the votes to pass it — and it’s not clear they have a strategy to get there.

For now, Democrats have 49 members sponsoring the bill. The holdout is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who opposes the current version and has said he wants a bipartisan plan instead.

But Republicans made clear they have no interest in compromising on core provisions of the bill, which would establish a federal floor for voting rights by requiring states to automatically register eligible voters and offer 15 days of early voting, among other provisions.

Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., GOP senators blasted the legislation during the Tuesday markup as a federal takeover of elections by one party.

Even if Democrats unified their 50-member caucus and secured a majority for the bill, it is subject to a filibuster. And Manchin has insisted, repeatedly, that he won’t vote to abolish the 60-vote rule.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican ranking member of the committee, told reporters Tuesday that the legislation “doesn’t have any hope of passing.”

“The majority leader will have to decide if he wants to bring a bill to the floor that can’t possibly pass unless there’s a change to the Senate rules.”

Democratic leaders described the legislation as crucial to protecting American democracy from GOP-led restrictive voting laws in states like Arizona, Texas and Georgia, which some of them compared to Jim Crow.

“In democracy, when you lose an election, you try to persuade more voters to vote for you. You don’t try to ban the other side from voting,” Schumer said. “That’s what dictators do.”

The committee considered over thirty amendments, and only a handful were adopted.

They included one by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to require the attorney general to submit a report to Congress studying voting by mail for military and overseas voters, and one from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that eliminates the requirement that applicants for independent redistricting commissions disclose their affiliation with religious organizations.

Cruz also introduced amendments that failed, including one that would express a sense of the Senate condemning businesses boycotting Georgia over their new restrictive voting law. Klobuchar condemned the amendment because it stuck language in the underlying bill that said Russia interfered in the 2016 election. And Sen. Jon Ossof, D-Ga., also opposed the amendment, saying that while he is against boycotts of his state, he did not support the way the Cruz language characterized its voting law.

Klobuchar offered an amendment on behalf of Democrats to make a series of revisions to the bill, giving states waivers and flexibility to implement major pieces of it.

The amendment won the support of all Democrats, but the 9-9 tie meant it was not adopted. Aides said they could pursue the amendments on the Senate floor.

But first they’d have to break a filibuster to begin debate.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the lead sponsor of the bill, said Democrats are “having conversations” about the need to protect Americans’ constitutional right to vote. “If we can’t persuade Republicans to join us, then 50 Democrats will get in a room and figure it out,” he said.

Asked if that means getting around the filibuster, Merkley, an outspoken opponent of the 60-vote rule, said only: “Fifty Democrats will have to get in a room and figure out how to go forward.”

Toward the end of the Tuesday session, Blunt made clear his side wasn’t interested in getting the bill to the finish line.

“Your enthusiasm is not shared by us,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the ranking member, told Klobuchar.

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Border apprehensions rose slightly in April, but number of unaccompanied minors dropped

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More than 178,000 immigrants were stopped at the southwest border in April, marking a 21-year high in monthly apprehensions, while the number of migrant children crossing the border without their parents fell by 12 percent, according to new numbers published Tuesday by Customs and Border Protection.

The number of monthly encounters was up slightly from March, in which Customs and Border Protection encountered just over 173,000 immigrants crossing into the United States from the border with Mexico.

The 21-year high was driven mainly by single adults attempting to cross the border illegally, according to CBP data, the vast majority of which were expelled. The Biden administration is continuing to turn back single adults and many families under an authority enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intended to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Customs and Border Protection said 62.5 percent of all immigrants encountered at the Southwest border in April were expelled under the CDC authority.

Meanwhile, the number of children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador crossing into the United States without a parent dropped from 15,918 in March – the highest number since data collection on unaccompanied children began in 2010 – to 13,962 in April.

The Biden administration has also decreased the amount of time children spend in border patrol custody. In March, more than 5,000 children were in border patrol custody, most staying over the 72-hour legal limit, spending an average of 115 days in facilities without beds or daily showers.

As of Tuesday, there were 455 children in border patrol custody, each spending an average of 28 days in those facilities.

Alleviating overcrowding in border patrol facilities has meant more children in Health and Human Services care, where they are better cared for and placed with a case manager. As of Tuesday, there were more than 20,000 children in HHS care.

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Jersey offers olive branch to France as crunch talks scheduled after tense fishing spat

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CRUNCH talks will take place between France and Jersey after French fishermen were granted more time to meet new rules in a bid to solve a dispute over fishing licences.

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