WASHINGTON – The Justice Department will scrutinize a wave of new laws in Republican-controlled states that tighten voting rules, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday, vowing to take action on any violations of federal law.
He announced plans to double staffing within the department's civil rights division and said the department would send guidance to states about election-related activity, including mail voting and post-election audits. He also pledged to investigate and prosecute those who would threaten election workers, noting a rise in such cases.
“There are many things open to debate in America, but the right of all eligible citizens to vote is not one of them,” Garland said in his first direct response to the restrictive voting laws being passed in more than a dozen states where Republicans control the legislature and governor's office.
Biden to return border wall funds
Former President Donald Trump's signature border wall project would lose much of its funding as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass environmental regulations under a Biden administration plan announced Friday.
President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office while his administration reviewed the project. Now he plans to return more than $2 billion that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall and use other money appropriated by Congress to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” created by the construction. It also asks lawmakers not to provide any additional funding for what the Biden team believes is an unnecessary effort.
Oregon legislator expelled over riots
Republican lawmakers voted with majority Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives to take the historic step of expelling a Republican member who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on Dec. 21.
The expulsion of the unapologetic Rep. Mike Nearman by a 59-1 vote Thursday night is the first in the House's 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution for expulsion was Nearman's own.
Nearman said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. The assault happened during a peak of the pandemic. But even Republicans, who are often bitterly opposed to Democratic initiatives on climate change and some other bills, said the crowd outside the Capitol that day was not made up of constituents who wanted to peacefully engage in the democratic process.