The Biden administration on Thursday will withdraw the nomination of David Chipman, a former federal agent who had promised to crack down on the use of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to five people with knowledge of the situation.
The withdrawal is a major setback to President Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence after several mass shootings this year, and comes after his push to expand background checks on gun purchases stalled in Congress in the face of unified Republican opposition.
The selection of Mr. Chipman, a longtime A.T.F. official who served as a consultant to the gun safety group founded by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, provoked a powerful backlash from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations who cast his confirmation as a threat to their Second Amendment rights.
Mr. Biden, who chose Mr. Chipman after receiving pressure from Ms. Giffords and other gun control proponents, needed the support of all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats and the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to get Mr. Chipman confirmed.
In recent weeks, Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, told Biden administration and leadership officials that he could not support the nomination, citing blunt public statements Mr. Chipman had made about gun owners, people familiar with the situation said.
During a contentious confirmation hearing in May, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee seized on those comments — including an interview in which Mr. Chipman likened the buying of weapons during the pandemic to a zombie apocalypse.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who had originally suggested he was open to the pick, eventually soured on the selection, too.
Mr. Chipman’s nomination deadlocked in the committee, but was reported to the Senate for a floor vote through a parliamentary maneuver. It never received one.
It is the second high-profile nomination of Mr. Biden’s to be withdrawn for lack of Democratic support. In March, Neera Tanden, his pick to head the budget office, pulled out of contention after an uproar over her caustic public statements. She was later hired as a policy adviser in the West Wing.
As hopes for Mr. Chipman’s confirmation waned this summer, White House officials began to discussing bringing him into the administration as an adviser, but no decisions have been made. The administration has no immediate plans to appoint a new nominee, according to a person involved in the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
As recently as last month, the White House signaled it was standing by its nominee, praising Mr. Chipman’s 25 years of experience as an A.T.F. agent, but also acknowledging the uphill battle he faced to gain confirmation. White House officials pinned the blame solely on Republican lawmakers, ignoring the opposition from members of the Democratic caucus.
“We are disappointed by the fact that many Republicans are moving in lock step to try to hold up his nomination and handcuff the chief federal law enforcement agency tasked with fighting gun crimes,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in August. “It speaks volumes to their complete refusal to tackle the spike in crime we’ve seen over the last 18 months.”
The withdrawal was earlier reported by The Washington Post.
In the 48 years since its mission shifted primarily to firearms enforcement, the A.T.F. has been weakened by relentless assaults from the N.R.A. which critics have argued made it an agency engineered to fail.
Fifteen years ago, the N.R.A. successfully lobbied to make the director’s appointment subject to Senate confirmation — and has subsequently helped block all but one nominee from taking office.
And at the N.R.A.’s behest, Congress has limited the bureau’s budget; imposed crippling restrictions on the collection and use of gun-ownership data, including a ban on requiring basic inventories of weapons from gun dealers; and limited unannounced inspections of gun dealers.
Annie Karni contributed reporting.
Former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday endorsed a primary challenger to Representative Liz Cheney, aiming to oust one of his fiercest Republican critics in a race that will test whether his influence over the party’s base remains strong enough to end her family’s political dynasty in Wyoming.
Mr. Trump threw his support behind Harriet Hageman, a former Republican National Committee official and a 2018 candidate for governor in Wyoming, in a bid to consolidate his supporters behind a single rival to the incumbent congresswoman.
The former president has for months taken an especially keen interest in defeating Ms. Cheney in the Wyoming race next year. She voted to impeach him over his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, and has accused him of undermining democracy with his unwillingness to accept the results of the 2020 election.
Ms. Cheney’s outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump — a rarity in her party — caused a deep rift with her Republican colleagues in the House, and in May they removed her as their No. 3 in the conference. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ms. Cheney had once been seen as a rising G.O.P. star, but she was replaced by Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a formerly moderate Republican who has become a Trump loyalist in recent years, in the House leadership.
This summer, Mr. Trump has met with potential challengers to Ms. Cheney at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Some of his advisers fear that multiple viable challengers to Ms. Cheney would fracture the opposition and allow her to survive the 2022 race.
Ms. Hageman stepped down this week from her post as a committeewoman on the Republican National Committee.
In his statement endorsing Ms. Hageman, Mr. Trump said that she “adores the Great State of Wyoming, is strong on Crime and Borders, powerfully supports the Second Amendment, loves our Military and our Vets, and will fight for Election Integrity and Energy Independence (which Biden has already given up).”
Mr. Trump made plain his dislike of Ms. Cheney’s criticism of him in the news media, saying it was necessary to replace the Democrats’ “number one provider of sound bites, Liz Cheney.”
The endorsement drew complaints even before it was official. Catharine O’Neill, who writes for the conservative website Newsmax and was considered another potential candidate — and who tweeted a picture of herself with Mr. Trump last month — wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “The Republican Establishment creeps around Trump are really bad. They are pushing him to make bad decisions, because they still don’t understand why Trump won in 2016. Sad.”
Mr. Trump has announced two upcoming rallies, in Iowa and Georgia, and has issued a spate of endorsements this month, often taking aim at fellow Republicans who have crossed or displeased him.
In Michigan, he endorsed a state legislator, Steve Carra, who is challenging Representative Fred Upton, another Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. In Washington State, he is backing Joe Kent, a veteran running against Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, another Republican supporter of the former president’s impeachment.
Ms. Cheney has been bullish about her chances against a pro-Trump Republican challenger. “Bring it on,” she said on the “Today” show in May.
Five House committees on Thursday will begin formally drafting their pieces of Democrats’ far-reaching social policy and climate change bill that would spend as much as $3.5 trillion over the next decade — and raise as much in taxes and other revenue boosters — to reweave the social safety net and move the country away from fossil fuels.
The products of the drafting sessions, which could take several arduous days, are to be folded into a final bill later this fall that could be one of the most significant measures to reach the House floor in decades.
“What I want people to know is that this bill is for you,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said on Wednesday. “If you’re a woman with children at home and want to return to the work force; if you have people with disabilities at home and in home health care; if your children are little and you want universal pre-K; children learning, parents earning; if someone is sick in your family and you need family and medical leave, paid; the list goes on.”
Democrats plan to push through the legislation using a process known as reconciliation, which shields fiscal measures from filibusters and allows them to pass with a simple majority if they adhere to strict rules. The maneuver leaves the party little room for defections given its slim margins of control in Congress.
Republicans are unified in opposition to the emerging bill, and lobbyists for business and the affluent are also arrayed against it. They need only to peel away three or four House Democrats — or a single Senate Democrat — to bring the effort down.
“This week, as Democrats try to ram through their reckless $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend agenda, let’s not forget that American families and Main Street businesses will be left shouldering the burden of these devastating tax hikes,” said Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, which will begin drafting its hefty portion of the bill on Thursday, Friday and into next week.
The panel will start with the spending side this week before moving next week to the more difficult task of tax increases to pay for it. Among the items on its voluminous agenda: providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; expanding tax credits to pay for child care and elder care; raising the wages of child care workers; requiring employers to automatically enroll employees in individual retirement accounts or 401(k) plans; and expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision and hearing benefits.
The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the bill, also under consideration on Thursday, would make prekindergarten universal for 3- and 4-year-olds; fund two years of tuition-free community college and increase the value of Pell Grants; provide money to rebuild and modernize school buildings; expand job training programs; and extend child nutrition programs bolstered on an emergency basis during the pandemic.
The Committee on Natural Resources, which has partial purview over climate change programs, will try to raise the fees for fossil fuel companies that explore and drill on public lands and waters; expand leasing of offshore sites for wind energy; spend up to $3.5 billion on a new civilian and tribal climate corps; and boost funding for wildfire control, climate resilience and adaptation to a warmer planet.
Smaller pieces of the bill will be drafted by the science and small business committees.
Senate Democrats, who are expected to skip the public drafting phase, have been meeting behind closed doors to try to work out their version of the bill and bring it directly to the floor.
They plan to submit a proposal to the Senate’s top rule enforcer as early as Friday that would legalize several groups of undocumented immigrants, including those who were brought to the country without authorization when they were children. It is up to the parliamentarian to determine whether specific measures qualify under Senate rules to be included in the final bill, which is supposed to be restricted to policies that directly affect government revenues.
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said Thursday that she had been diagnosed and treated this year for breast cancer, and that her doctors said in August that her treatment had been successful.
“At this point my doctors believe that my chances of developing cancer again are no greater than the average person,” Ms. Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, wrote in a post on Medium.
Ms. Klobuchar, 61, said she learned in February that she had Stage 1A cancer after doctors at Mayo Clinic found “small white spots called calcifications during a routine mammogram.”
She said that she underwent various tests and she subsequently had a lumpectomy on the right breast to remove the cancer. In May, she said she completed radiation treatment.
She said that doctors determined in August that the treatment had been successful.
“Of course this has been scary at times,” Ms. Klobuchar said. Adding, “Cancer is the word all of us fear.”
The senator said she was lucky it was caught early and that she had delayed having a mammogram.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast cancer screenings for women who are 45 to 54 years old. Women who are 55 and older should be screened every two years, according to the society.
“It’s easy to put off health screenings, just like I did,” she wrote. “But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through.”
Ms. Klobuchar, the chairwoman of the Rules and Administration Committee, said she underwent treatment while the committee investigated the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and convened hearings on the new voting restrictions imposed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in Georgia and other parts of the country.
Ms. Klobuchar, who said her husband took her to her radiation treatments, said that her Senate colleagues did not know she had cancer.
“It’s something that no one wants to hear and no one wants to experience,” she said of the illness. “In the end, I just have this unbounding gratitude for the people that were there for me.”
The White House pushed out several prominent Trump administration appointees from their posts on the advisory boards of U.S. military service academies, administration officials said on Wednesday.
The Biden administration was seeking to ensure that nominees and board members were “qualified to serve on them” and “aligned” with the president’s values, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a White House briefing. Chris Meagher, a White House spokesman, later confirmed that all of the appointees “either resigned or has been terminated from their position.”
Eighteen Trump appointees were asked to resign. They included former White House officials such as Kellyanne Conway, President Donald J. Trump’s counselor; Sean Spicer, his first White House press secretary; Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s second national security adviser; and Russell T. Vought, a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under Mr. Trump.
Several of them posted screenshots on social media of the letters they said they had received from the White House on Wednesday requesting that they resign by 6 p.m. or be removed from their positions.
Ms. Conway, one of Mr. Trump’s most prominent White House aides, wrote a letter refusing to resign from her advisory position at the Air Force Academy.
“President Biden, I’m not resigning, but you should,” she wrote on Twitter, with an image of her letter.
“Three former directors of presidential personnel inform me that this request is a break from presidential norms,” Ms. Conway wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Mr. Biden. “It certainly seems petty and political, if not personal.”
Other Trump appointees were similarly defiant. Mr. Vought also declined to resign as a member of the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy, noting on Twitter that members serve three-year terms. He was appointed to the board in December.
Advisory boards to the military service academies are a mix of lawmakers and presidential appointees who advise and oversee the institutions on matters including morale, discipline and curriculum. Presidential appointees serve for three years.
President Biden on Thursday will sign executive orders requiring the vast majority of federal workers and contractors who do business with the government to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. They are part of an aggressive new plan to that will also put pressure on private businesses, states and schools to enact stricter vaccination and testing policies as the Delta variant continues its spread across the United States.
The mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services — a work force that numbers more than four million — but not to those who work for Congress or the federal court system, according to a person familiar with the plan.
The spread of the highly infectious variant had pushed the country’s daily average caseload over 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing roughly 1,500 people a day. The surge has alarmed Mr. Biden and his top health advisers, who see mass vaccination as the only way to bring the pandemic under control.
Mr. Biden, who was briefed by his team of coronavirus advisers on Wednesday afternoon, is set to deliver a speech at 5 p.m. Eastern that will address about six areas where his administration can encourage — or, at this point, push — more eligible Americans to receive vaccines.
Mr. Biden had already pushed federal workers to get vaccinated by announcing that those who refused would have to undergo regular coronavirus testing. But the surge, coupled with last month’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to those 16 and older, has made him decide to take more aggressive steps, eliminating the option of testing, the officials said.
The mandates are a marked shift for a president who, mindful of the contentious political climate around vaccination, initially steered away from any talk of making vaccines mandatory. But the F.D.A. approval — which also prompted the Pentagon to require its employees to get vaccinated — has clearly strengthened Mr. Biden’s hand.
“Never before have we mandated a vaccine throughout the federal work force, the National Guard, among government contractors and also using the bully pulpit to try to influence businesses and universities and cities and states to do the same,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University.
Still, Mr. Gostin said, there is much more the president could do. He has already exercised his executive authority to require masks on airplanes and interstate trains and buses, and could similarly mandate vaccination for international or interstate travel — a step that Mr. Gostin described as “low-hanging fruit.”
One thing Mr. Biden cannot do is require all Americans to get vaccinated; in the United States, vaccinations are the province of the states. But Mr. Gostin said the president could also dangle the prospect of federal funding to prod states to require their own workers to get vaccinated, and his administration could offer technical guidance to states that want to develop “vaccine passports” for people to provide digital proof of vaccination.
More than 75 percent of American adults have taken at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but overall, just 53 percent of the public is fully vaccinated. Bringing the overall number up will require more than cajoling; roughly 45 million children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. And surveys show that about 14 percent of Americans say they are unlikely to ever get vaccinated.
Two officials familiar with Mr. Biden’s plan said that its underlying message would be that the only way to return to some sense of normalcy was to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s what our objective is, so we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”
When asked if Mr. Biden would be adding more detail to existing policies or would outline measures that would have an immediate and broad effect on Americans, Ms. Psaki replied: “It depends on if you’re vaccinated or not.”
Administration officials see signs that more people in the United States are open to receiving shots — some 14 million got their first shots in August, four million more than in July, Ms. Psaki said. But about 27 percent of the eligible U.S. population age 12 and older have not received any Covid vaccinations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some of the hardest-hit states, the unvaccinated percentage is higher: 42 percent in Texas, for instance, and 38 percent in Florida.
About 1.3 million fully vaccinated people have received a third shot after federal officials approved them for people with compromised immune systems. Mr. Biden has publicly supported the idea of broadening the availability of third shots as boosters for much more of the population, but health experts have advised the White House to hold off promoting that for now.
On Wednesday, Ms. Psaki said that the White House was working toward a plan for boosters, but did not give a time frame. She told reporters that Mr. Biden had chosen Thursday to deliver an extensive speech on the virus because he understood it was “top of mind for Americans” as they return to schools and offices.
The president will also be seeking to course-correct after a difficult month for his administration, directing the public away from a chaotic and violent end to the war in Afghanistan and back toward his administration’s efforts to curb a pandemic that has upended every facet of American life.
But amid renewed fears of the virus’s damaging effect on the economy and the prevalence of a troublesome variant, even Mr. Biden’s allies say it will take more than a speech to ease concerns that the virus has once again spiraled out of a president’s control.
“He ran on competence, bringing adults back into the room,” said Nick Rathod, a former domestic policy adviser to President Barack Obama. “This is something that he needs to take control of and show his level of competency. I think that’s why he was hired.”