(PHOENIX) -- Nearly 11 months after Joe Biden was elected president, the GOP-led review of Arizona's Maricopa County ballots has found no substantial deviation from the vote count reported by the county that helped clinch the win for Biden.
The review's count was within a "few hundred" of the county's total, according to Republican Senate President Karen Fann. Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan reported that former President Donald Trump had 261 fewer votes than the county’s official canvass gave him, while Biden had 99 more.
"That is a true statement. They were close. I find it ironic that our secretary of state, and a few others have called this a sham audit -- that you can't trust, that you can't believe it. Well the interesting fact is: Truth is truth, numbers are numbers and we said that from day one," Fann said. "And those numbers were close. Within a few hundred."
"This has never been about overturning the election. It's never been about decertifying," she said.
Despite mandated post-election reviews and two private audits of the county’s results that showed no anomalies or election integrity issues, Republicans still forged ahead with court cases seeking to prove fraud in Maricopa County.
When those failed, the state Senate contracted a private company to conduct a review of its own, which has now ultimately found similar results to the vote counts reported by Maricopa County, officials said during their presentation.
Democrats disavowed the process in a statement Friday afternoon.
"This fake audit, which has cost Arizona taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, was never about increasing voter trust. It was about overturning the will of the voters, waging war against a fair and secure election and encouraging conspiracy theories to destabilize American democracy. The facts are this: Maricopa County performed multiple real audits of the election as required under state law," Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios said. "At the end of the day, the American people elected Joe Biden in a free and fair election and Cyber Ninjas and Arizona Republicans can’t change that."
Biden flipped the state blue with a 10,457-vote lead. Sen. Mark Kelly also ousted former Republican Sen. Martha McSally -- winning that race by 78,806 votes. Former President Donald Trump, who has perpetuated some of the conspiracies that drove the audit, released a statement lauding the report's findings.
Despite the Senate result showing similar numbers to the county's official canvass, Trump falsely claimed the audit showed "incomprehensible Fraud at an Election Changing level."
Maricopa County Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican who was critical of the partisan review process, said after a draft report began circulating Thursday night that the results were not surprising.
"You don’t have to dig deep into the draft copy of the Arizona Senate/Cyber Ninja audit report to confirm what I already knew – the candidates certified by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General – did, in fact, win," Sellers said in a statement.
Despite the fact that the review reaffirmed Biden's win, critics say it still contained misrepresentations about election procedures.
The process was also criticized for a lack of transparency. While the review was being conducted, it was difficult to discern who exactly was in charge. Far-right media outlets were typically given increased access to the review and its officials, according to local media.
Fann chose Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm with no experience working in elections, to conduct the review. She agreed to cover $150,000 of the cost with taxpayer money and approximately $6 million was donated by private groups, according to records released in response to a court order.
Only Fann and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee heard the presentation on Friday. There was no public comment or question period expected. Democrats are not allowed to participate in the presentation and were not expected to be able to ask questions, according to a spokesperson for Senate Democrats, who said the party had been "out of the loop."
Since the beginning of the review, election experts have warned that the process was flawed and results would not be trustworthy given the unscientific manner the review was conducted. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who took office in January, wrote a 38-page report to debunk common conspiracy theories and lies about the election results.
"I spent November and December willing to wait for a meritorious lawsuit, a scientific claim, or convincing data. But it never came because it didn’t exist. What is there, is data showing that Trump’s loss was built on disaffected Republican voters," Richer wrote in his report. "And the maps of presidential votes in 2020 almost exactly match the Arizona map of 2016, except that it shifted slightly in favor of the Democrat."
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor who fought to allow official election observers in to watch the review process, wrote a prebuttal of her own, saying the partisan review does not meet the standard definition of an "audit."
"Moreover, it failed to satisfy the basic standards for election auditing. Because of these failures, any findings or report issued by Cyber Ninjas, or the state senate, based on the information collected using these faulty and inconsistently applied procedures and processes, should not be considered trustworthy or accurate," she said.
(DES MOISE, Iowa) -- Iowa's senior Republican senator, Chuck Grassley, announced in an early morning tweet Friday that, at age 88, he will seek reelection in 2022.
Grassley, who will be 89 by Election Day next year, is proud of his physical fitness, and not-so-subtly bragged about in a tweet announcing his run that showed him jogging before sunrise in Iowa.
"It’s 4 a.m. in Iowa so I’m running. I do that 6 days a week. Before I start the day I want you to know what Barbara and I have decided," Grassley said the tweet. "I’m running for re-election—a lot more to do, for Iowa. We ask and will work for your support. Will you join us?"
The tweet included a clock turning to 4 a.m. and video of him jogging in the dark along a rural road.
It’s 4 a.m. in Iowa so I’m running. I do that 6 days a week. Before I start the day I want you to know what Barbara and I have decided.
Even getting close to 90, Grassley is currently only the second oldest member of the Senate, with California Democrat Dianne Feinstein besting him for the title by a matter of months.
His physique is a matter of legend on Capitol Hill.
He is frequently seen running or walking briskly through the Capitol hallways, and he's known to challenge other senators to push-up contests. (He can do at least 21, perhaps more.)
But Grassley's endurance can also be measured by his steady presence on Capitol Hill.
He began his career in Washington when he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1975. He's been a member of the Senate since 1980, and currently holds the record for the 10th longest Senate tenure.
Grassley currently serves as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He led the committee for a portion of the Trump administration and aided in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees and many federal judges that cemented conservative sway of the judiciary. He also served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee for the later half of President Donald Trump's term.
With Republicans hoping to retake the now evenly-divided Senate in 2022, Grassley's seat, as well as those of other Republican incumbents up for reelection, will be closely watched. Several long-serving Republican senators are retiring in 2022.
Following the announcement of his intent to run, the Iowa Republican Party threw its weight behind the senator.
"The road to a Republican majority runs right through Iowa. Defending this seat should be a top priority for every Iowan looking to stop Joe Biden's chaotic agenda," the party said in a statement. "Sen. Grassley's never-quit attitude has propelled him to be one of the most effective senators in our state's history. Grassley is a lifelong family farmer who understands the value of hard work, community, education, and family."
Grassley's most likely opponent is former Democratic Iowa Representative Abby Finkenauer, who was narrowly defeated in her 2020 reelection bid for the House.
Recent polling be the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed Grassley leading Finkenauer by 18 percentage points among likely voters.
Finkenauer slammed Grassley in a statement, alleging that the senator has lost touch with Iowa during his lengthy Senate tenure.
"After 47 years in Washington, D.C., Chuck Grassley has changed from an Iowa farmer to just another coastal elite," Finkenauer alleged.
Grassley's Senate colleagues celebrated his announcement in tweets Friday, praising his work ethic and experience.
"Chuck is a ferocious advocate for the people of Iowa and the conservative cause," GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a tweet. "I have served with Chuck my entire time in the Senate. He is one of the most hardworking, enthusiastic senators I have ever met with a wealth of experience and knowledge."
ABC News' Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.
(NEW YORK) -- Vice President Kamala Harris' interview on "The View" on Friday was delayed after two co-hosts tested positive for COVID-19.
Harris, who was supposed to appear in-studio with the co-hosts of the show, instead appeared remotely from another room after Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin were said to have tested positive.
Speaking with the two remaining co-hosts, Joy Behar and Sara Haines, the vice president said the treatment of Haitian migrants on the southwest U.S. border was "horrible and deeply troubling."
"Human beings shouldn't be treated that way," Harris said. "And as we all know, it also evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history, where that kind of behavior has been used against the indigenous people of our country, has been used against African Americans during times of slavery."
The show began with the four co-hosts sitting at the host's table for the start of the show; Navarro and Hostin were quickly ushered off the set before Harris' intended appearance. The other co-hosts said Navarro and Hostin had been vaccinated against the virus.
"This is going to be a major news story in a minute now," Behar said when she first announced the news. "Sunny and Ana apparently just tested positive for COVID."
Harris' deputy press secretary, Sabrina Singh, said in a statement that the vice president "did not have contact with the hosts before the show" and that Harris's Friday schedule would "continue as planned."
But the interview was delayed for much of the show as producers and the U.S. Secret Service took precautions to make sure the vice president would remain safe.
When Harris did appear for her interview, she noted the effectiveness of the vaccines since the anchors did not appear to have any noticeable, or severe, symptoms.
"Sunny and Ana are strong women and I know they're fine," Harris said. "But it really does speak to the fact that they're vaccinated and vaccines really make all the difference..."
Harris also answered questions about COVID-19, Afghanistan and abortion access -- with sharp words about Haitians at the border.
When asked about asylum applications from migrants, she said she and Biden believe the administration has to do more to support Haiti itself.
"Haiti is our neighbor," Harris said. "The United States has to help and we have to do more and our administration feels strongly about that."
On Friday morning, President Joe Biden told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that, as president, he took responsibility for the photos and videos coming from the border of mounted police units confronting Haitian migrants.
"It's an embarrassment, beyond an embarrassment. It's dangerous. It's wrong,” Biden said. “It sends the wrong message around the world, sends the wrong message at home."
On Thursday, the U.S. Border Patrol announced it would put a pause on agents on horseback.
The president earlier this year tasked Harris with serving as his point person on stemming the flow of migration from Central America to the United States.
Earlier in the week, the vice president had condemned the ways Border Patrol agents were shown to be treating migrants.
(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday harshly criticized the action of some Border Patrol agents, mounted on horseback, who confronted Haitian migrants crossing the border into Texas, calling their actions "horrible."
"It's outrageous, I promise you, those people will pay," Biden said.
Biden's blunt statements came as the situation and the agents' conduct are still under investigation and the agents have been placed on administrative leave. The use of horses has been suspended in the meantime.
Biden was responding to a question from ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott, who asked, "You said on the campaign trail that you were going to restore the moral standing of the U.S., that you are going to immediately end Trump's assault on the dignity of immigrant communities. Given what we saw at the border this week, have you failed in that promise? And this is happening under your watch--do you take responsibility for the chaos that's unfolding?"
"Of course, I take responsibility," Biden said, but he then quickly shifted to the controversial images of the agents on horseback. "I'm president but it was horrible to see what you saw to see people treat it like they did -- horses family nearly running over people being strapped. It's outrageous, I promise you, those people will pay. They will be -- there is investigation underway now, and there will be consequences. There will be consequences. It's an embarrassment, beyond an embarrassment. It's dangerous. It's wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world, sends the wrong message at home. It's simply not who we are," he said.
Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have demanded an end to the Haitians being expelled and the ACLU and other migrant advocates have had the administration is illegally removing them through the use of Title 42, claiming they are justified in doing so for public health reasons because of the pandemic.
The U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, has resigned in protest over the administration policy, calling the treatment of the Haitian migrants "inhumane."
(WASHINGTON) -- The House on Friday passed a bill to uphold abortion rights for women, taking swift action in response to a new Texas law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.
The final tally was 218-211 with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing the vote.
Recent Stories from ABC News
The House bill has little chance of becoming law and is largely symbolic given Republican opposition in the Senate.
The House bill would codify protections provided by the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized women’s right to an abortion.
The Texas law that passed in September prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and allows "any person, other than an officer or employee of state or local government," to bring a civil suit against someone believed to have "aided or abetted" an unlawful abortion.
People who successfully sue an abortion provider under this law could be awarded at least $10,000.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called "heartbeat ban" on May 19 and it went into effect on Sept. 1.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Sept. 1 to allow SB8 to take effect on procedural grounds, despite what the majority acknowledged as "serious questions" about constitutionality. The justices did not address those questions.
Pelosi has said taking congressional action would make a "tremendous difference" in Democrats' efforts to maintain access to abortion rights. She called the Supreme Court's decision "shameful."
Ahead of Friday’s vote, Pelosi said the House legislation should "send a very positive message to the women of our country -- but not just the women, to the women and their families, to everyone who values freedom, honors our Constitution and respects women."
Since Texas's abortion ban went into effect, lawmakers in 11 states, including Florida, have announced intentions or plans to model legislation after the state's law, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a Mississippi abortion case in early December. The high court is expected to consider the legality of Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law that is intended to challenge Roe v. Wade.
(WASHINGTON) -- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot issued its first subpoenas Thursday to four former senior Trump administration officials, including former President Donald Trump's longest-serving aide and last chief of staff.
The committee is seeking documents and depositions from Dan Scavino -- Trump's caddy-turned-social media guru and senior White House aide -- former chief of staff Mark Meadows, conservative activist Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, who was the chief of staff for the acting defense secretary on Jan. 6.
In the letters, the panel said it was seeking information about Trump's actions before, during and after the Capitol riot regarding his campaign to overturn the election results.
The committee is demanding records be delivered by Oct. 7, and for all four witnesses to appear for closed-door depositions on Oct. 14 and 15.
"The Select Committee has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding the important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021," Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote in letters to Bannon and Scavino.
The panel's members have vowed to move aggressively to obtain documents and records from witnesses in Trump's orbit, many of whom have a history of stonewalling congressional investigators.
"That is a concern, but we have additional tools that we didn't before, including a Justice Department that may be willing to pursue criminal contempt when people deliberately flout the compulsory process," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday about the possibility of Trump aides defying congressional investigators.
Trump, in a statement, pledged to fight the subpoenas "on executive privilege and other grounds," though not every recipient was a White House or administration official.
Meadows, who was Trump's last chief of staff, was close to Trump before, during and after Jan. 6, and was involved in efforts to challenge the election results -- participating in Trump's call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger when he repeatedly urged him to reverse the presidential election results.
A Meadows aide declined to comment on the subpoena and whether Meadows would cooperate.
Patel, a former GOP congressional aide who worked in the Trump National Security Council before joining the Pentagon, was involved in security preparations for the Jan. 6 counting of the electoral vote on Capitol Hill and mobilizing the response to the riot, according to the committee, citing records obtained from the Defense Department.
Bannon, who remained an outside adviser to the president after helping to lead his first presidential campaign and a short stint in the White House, was at a meeting at the Willard Hotel where lawmakers were encouraged to challenge the election results, the committee claimed in its letter.
He was quoted as saying, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow," the panel wrote in its letter, citing a Jan. 5 episode of his podcast, "War Room."
Scavino, Trump's longest-serving aide and one of his fiercest defenders on social media, was with Trump before and after rioters stormed the Capitol, the committee claimed in its letter, citing reporting from Peril, the new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
He also used his Twitter feed to promote the Jan. 6 demonstration in Washington in support of Trump. Some attendees of that event outside the White House later marched on the Capitol and stormed Congress as lawmakers attempted to officially affirm the election results.
(WASHINGTON) -- Talks of bipartisan police reform legislation in Congress are officially over as Republicans and Democrats can't agree on key issues.
Democrats, after more than a year of negotiations, made a final offer, but despite "significant strides," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., there weren't any more concessions to be made.
"I just want to make it clear that this is not an end -- the efforts to create substantive policing reform will continue," Booker told reporters at the Capitol.
"It is a disappointment that we are at this moment," Booker continued, adding that having participation from nation's largest police union and the International Association of Chiefs of Police shows that "this is a bigger movement than where we were just a year or two ago."
Lead Republican negotiator Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said he's concerned about high crime rates in some cities.
"When you're talking about making progress in the bill, and your definition of progress is to make it punitive -- or take more money away from officers if they don't do what you want them to do -- that's defunding the police," Scott told ABC News. "I'm not going to be a part of defunding the police."
More than a year after the start of a racial reckoning in the United States, the movement to address brutality and racism in policing continues to dominate political discourse.
George Floyd's death prompts reform
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was introduced in June 2020, very soon after Floyd, a Black man, was killed by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during an arrest. Floyd was accused of using a fake $20 bill at a local store.
Chauvin pinned Floyd on the ground, with his knee on the back of Floyd's neck and upper back until he went unconscious. Videos taken by bystanders sparked a national movement against police brutality and racism, and legislators, including Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, sought to answer calls for justice and end the current system of policing.
The Justice in Policing Act aimed to establish a national standard for policing practices, collect better data on police use of force and misconduct, ban the use of tactics such as no-knock warrants, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers against private civil lawsuits.
It passed the House in March on a party-line vote, but the Republican-majority Senate didn't move it forward. The legislation was reintroduced in 2021.
Senate Republicans also proposed a reform bill in June 2020, but Democrats blocked it, saying it didn't do enough.
The Justice Act proposed using federal dollars to incentivize police departments to ban controversial practices, like the chokehold that killed Floyd, make lynching a federal hate crime, increase training and enforce the use of body cameras. The effectiveness of no-knock warrants also was to be studied.
Democrats and Republicans agree on 'framework'
In summer 2021, both sides settled on a shared "framework" from which to pursue legislation.
"After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform," Scott, Booker and Bass said in a joint statement. "There is still more work to be done on the final bill, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalized proposal across the finish line."
Many Republicans said they believed the proposed legislation put law enforcement under attack, while most Democrats held firm in holding accountable officers accused of abusing suspects.
Both sides still agreed to pursue change, but qualified immunity quickly became a sticking point for Republicans, and it ultimately led to the legislation's demise.
Qualified immunity protects officers in cases where they've been individually accused of violating a person's civil rights.
Some congressional Republicans said they feared a rise in frivolous lawsuits if qualified immunity were to be eradicated, but officers still would've had the same constitutional protections, and civil cases still would've been reviewed by courts before moving forward.
Sources told ABC News that Scott would get on board with a proposal if police unions could agree on a plan, but they've been very reluctant to do so.
Two police unions, the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, were involved in negotiations with legislators. Though they came close to an agreement with Booker, other police unions such as the National Association of Police Organization, spoke out against Booker's proposals because they weren't included in earlier discussions.
Now, it's back to square one. Booker said he and Congressional Democrats will find other pathways to achieving extensive police reform , but those pathways likely won't include Republican colleagues.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in the Senate at the start of these negotiations, denounced Republican efforts to quash reform.
"We learned that Senate Republicans chose to reject even the most modest reforms. Their refusal to act is unconscionable," Harris said in a statement. "Millions of people marched in the streets to see reform and accountability, not further inaction. Moving forward, we are committed to exploring every available action at the executive level to advance the cause of justice in our nation."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was disappointed.
"In the coming weeks," she said, "our team will consult with members of Congress, the law enforcement, civil rights communities and victims families to discuss a path forward, including potential executive actions the president can take to ensure we live up to the American ideal of equality and justice under law."
(FLORIDA) -- A state legislator in Florida has introduced an abortion restriction bill similar to a controversial law that took effect in Texas earlier this month.
The new bill, HB 167, introduced Wednesday in the Florida House of Representatives by Rep. Webster Barnaby, would ban most abortions in the state and would allow people to file civil lawsuits against doctors who violate the law.
Specifically, HB 167 would require physicians to test for a "fetal heartbeat" on a pregnant person seeking an abortion.
Under the proposed legislation, a physician may not perform an abortion if there is a "detectable fetal heartbeat."
The bill also puts the enforcement of the law on private citizens, versus the state, in allowing people to bring lawsuits against physicians. It calls for damages of at least $10,000 per abortion for the physician who performs the procedure and any defendants that “aided or abetted” the procedure.
People would have up to six years after an illegal abortion is performed to file a lawsuit.
The Texas law, Senate Bill 8, bans nearly all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, specifically once the rhythmic contracting of fetal cardiac tissue can be detected.
Similar to the newly introduced bill in Florida, the Texas law is unusual in that it prohibits the state from enforcing the ban but allows anyone to sue a person they believe is providing an abortion or assisting someone in getting an abortion after six weeks.
People who successfully sue an abortion provider under this law could be awarded at least $10,000.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called "heartbeat ban" on May 19 and it went into effect on Sept. 1.
The heartbeat bill is now LAW in the Lone Star State.
This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.
Like the Texas law, the Florida legislation does not include exceptions for pregnancies that occur from rape or incest, but makes an exception if a physician believes a "medical emergency" exists.
The bill's language about "fetal heartbeat" is controversial because many medical experts say that early-stage cardiac activity isn't a heartbeat.
Cardiac activity is typically first detected five to six weeks into pregnancy, or three to four weeks after the embryo starts developing.
Most of the abortions performed nationwide are after six weeks of pregnancy.
When a person is six weeks pregnant, it typically means the embryo started developing about four weeks prior, based on the formula doctors use to figure out when a person will give birth. People don't often realize they are pregnant until after the six-week mark.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Sept. 1 to allow SB8 to take effect on procedural grounds, despite what the majority acknowledged as "serious questions" about constitutionality. The justices did not address those questions.
Texas is one of 13 states that have passed laws banning abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy; legal challenges have so far prevented all from taking effect.
Since Texas's abortion ban went into effect, lawmakers in 11 states, including Florida, have announced intentions or plans to model legislation after the state's law, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“Governor DeSantis is pro-life. The Governor’s office is aware that the bill was filed today and like all legislation, we will be monitoring it as it moves through the legislative process in the coming months,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said in an email to the AP.
Democratic leaders in Florida have vowed to fight the legislation.
"This bill is dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional. The hypocrisy of this attempt by Governor (Ron) DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature to take away our rights while at the same time preaching ’my body, my choice' when it comes to wearing masks is absolutely disgusting," Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, also a Democratic candidate for governor, said in a statement, according to the AP.
(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic House and Senate leaders on Thursday announced they and the White House have reached agreement on a "framework" that will pay for most, if not all, of the massive $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill -- a move meant to mitigate concerns from moderate and centrist Democrats opposed to the hefty price tag.
But the leaders provided very little details on the framework a day after President Joe Biden met with Democratic leaders, moderates and progressives at the White House in an effort to save his agenda from Democratic infighting.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also did not provide a clear outline about when the reconciliation bill will be ready for a vote.
She also did not commit to putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor for a vote next Monday, which she had promised moderates would happen.
Pelosi was joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at her weekly press conference, as Democrats also face a looming possible government shutdown on Oct. 1 and still need to deal with the debt ceiling, which Republicans will not support.
"The White House, the House and the Senate have reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement. So, the revenue side of this, we have an agreement on," Schumer told reporters.
"We know that we can cover the provisions the president has put forward," Pelosi added. "It's all good."
This announcement is meant to provide some relief to those moderate, centrist Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who do not support that $3.5 trillion number.
But Pelosi and Schumer provided very little on actual details. As of right now, leaders are no closer to having a reconciliation bill -- which means the fate of the bipartisan infrastructure bill hangs in the balance.
"We came to terms as to a framework of an array of agreements that we have, depending on what the need is. Now at the same time, we're finalizing on the outlay side, so if we need more, we need less -- that will impact the choices we make there," Pelosi said.
Pelosi also did not commit to putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already passed in the Senate on the floor next week.
"We take it one day at time," Pelosi told reporters. "I am confident that we will pass both bills."
Pelosi also did not make clear if $3.5 trillion will remain the topline, or if that figure could change and drop lower.
"This is not about price tag. This is about what is in the bill," Pelosi said.
Following the press conference, reporters caught up with Pelosi and pressed for more details on the framework.
When reporters suggested they had too few details, Pelosi responded, "well that's your problem, not mine."
Following the press conference, many senators close to the negotiation table say they are in the dark about the new framework agreement.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said he has "no idea" what the agreement is. He told reporters he hopes to be briefed on it soon "if there is a framework."
"We've been through this a million times. There are many many approaches as to how you can raise money in a fair and progressive way and raise at least 3.5 trillion dollars," Sanders said. "If that's what the menu is there is nothing then nothing particularly new I think."
Sen. Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat on the Budget committee who has been intimately involved in negotiations with the president on the reconciliation plan told reporters he has not the "foggiest idea" what is in the framework.
Warner told reporters he was "as interested in getting those details as you are."
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he was in meetings over the framework, but declined to give many details about what was discussed or decided upon.
"It went right to the heart of what we need in terms of tax fairness in America and that's where we are this morning," Wyden said while dodging questions about a topline or any agreed to "payfors."
Senators said they expected to receive more information from leadership Thursday on what the framework is.
Democratic leaders also have to contend with a potential shutdown on Oct. 1, but Pelosi insisted a shutdown would be avoided.
Pelosi told reporters Republicans could cave on raising the debt ceiling because "public sentiment is everything."
But she indicated that both chambers will do everything they can to keep the government open via a so-called "continuing resolution" that maintains current funding levels, which may mean they will have to deal with the debt ceiling at a later time.
"We will keep the government open by September 30 ... and continue the conversation about the debt ceiling. Whatever it is, we will have a CR that passes both houses by September 30," Pelosi said.
(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, has resigned in protest over the Biden administration deportations of Haitians from the southern border, calling them "inhumane."
"Ambassador Daniel Foote, who had been serving as Special Envoy for Haiti since July 22, 2021, submitted his resignation to Secretary Blinken yesterday. We thank Ambassador Foote for his service in this role," a State Department spokesman told ABC News on Thursday.
In his resignation letter Foote protested the Biden administration's decision to deport Haitian migrants gathered in Del Rio, Texas.
"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," Foote wrote in the blistering letter obtained by ABC News. "Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”
Ned Price, the State Department's top spokesman, pushed back strongly on claims Foote made in his resignation letter.
"For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false," Price said in a statement. "There have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process. Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process."
"It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation," Price said.
"No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas," he added. "This is a challenging moment that requires leadership. He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead."
After thousands of Haitians and other migrants took shelter in an encampment under a bridge in the south Texas town of Del Rio, the Biden administration has been removing many back to Haiti and Mexico.
The migrant surge comes after Haiti experienced a tumultuous summer.
In July, Haiti's president was assassinated, leaving the country politically unstable. A month later, the country was rocked by a devastating earthquake that left thousands dead. And the countries streets are still run by gangs, leaving much of the population vulnerable to daily violence.
As many as 12,000 Haitians and other migrants took shelter in an encampment under a bridge in the border town , the Biden administration has been removing many back to Haiti and Mexico.
(WASHINGTON) -- Even as the Biden administration makes progress toward dispersing the large group of mostly Haitian nationals gathered in Del Rio, Texas, government officials are facing internal divisions over how the migrants have been treated.
"As we speak out against the cruel, the inhumane, and the flat out racist treatment of our Haitian brothers and sisters at the southern border we cannot and we must not look away in this moment," Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley said Wednesday.
Joined by a growing chorus of Democratic leaders in Congress, Pressley was referring to the striking images of Border Patrol agents on horseback confronting migrants and snapping their reins aggressively.
Some Democrats are also calling on the Biden administration to immediately stop repatriating the Haitians back to their island nation, citing concerns about safety. As of Wednesday afternoon, officials report there were just over 5,547 migrants left in the encampment under an international bridge in the South Texas town of Del Rio, as the Biden administration scrambles to track, process and remove the group that at one point ballooned to more than 14,000 people.
Rep. Pressley on situation at U.S. southern border: “Haitian lives are Black lives, and if we truly believe that Black lives matter, then we must reverse course."
"Despite the Administration’s rapid deployment of personnel and resources in response to this crisis, much of the strategy to address the care of these vulnerable individuals is deeply concerning," Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson and Gregory W. Meeks said in a joint statement on Wednesday. "Specifically, we urge the Administration to halt repatriations to Haiti until the country recovers from these devastating crises."
The Department of Homeland Security has a limited number of options after agents encounter unauthorized migrants in the border region. Some are referred to ICE custody for detention or deportation while many are released to U.S. resettlement organizations and given a future date to report or appear in court.
DHS extended temporary protections for Haitian nationals over the summer. But it only moved the deadline to apply to July 29. That means those who have arrived more recently do not qualify for the Temporary Protected Status designation even if they fled Haiti before the deadline, and thay are subject to removal under what's called Title 42.
"We have looked at the country conditions and made a determination that in fact we can return individuals who've arrived," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
DHS provided a statement to ABC News Wednesday evening saying removal flights from Texas to Haiti will continue, noting that more than 1,000 migrants have already been flown back.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has rapidly expelled hundreds of thousands of migrants from the U.S. under a decades-old part of the public health code known as Title 42. These expulsions have gravely concerned immigrant advocates who say the process cuts off access to the humanitarian protections some migrants are due.
Immigration officials have cited the protocols as a necessary tool in managing the migration challenges, but resources on the border have remained strained and agents have been pushed to their limits in an attempt to manage the influx in Del Rio.
At the same time, images of the tactics used by Border Patrol agents on horseback have stirred outrage from Democrats, with some drawing connections to extremist views.
"Congress must do the work of investigating and ensuring accountability of the egregious and white supremacist behavior of border patrol agents in Del Rio Texas," Pressley said at the Wednesday press conference.
Mayorkas addressed the images of the horse mounted patrol at the beginning of Wednesday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing and reiterated that the agents in question won't be interacting with migrants while the agency investigates.
"The facts will drive the actions that we take," Mayorkas said. "We ourselves will pull no punches, and we need to conduct this investigation thoroughly, but very quickly."
"I’m unhappy, and I'm not just unhappy with the cowboys who were running down Haitians and using their reins to whip them. I'm unhappy with this administration," Rep. Maxine Waters says at a news conference on the situation at the U.S. southern border. https://t.co/tUeqoESHTPpic.twitter.com/BuWTMs8ilf
He said he expects the investigation to wrap up "in days and not weeks."
Mayorkas was pressed again Wednesday about providing data that explains what has happened to migrants after they've been arrested or detained by border officials. When asked repeatedly by Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, he declined to provide specifics or estimations, citing concerns over accuracy.
"Congressman, I want to be precise in my communication of data to the United States Congress and to you specifically having posed the question," Mayorkas said.
White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki was also questioned Wednesday on the lack of information coming out of DHS about where the Haitian nationals are ending up, including how many have been released into the U.S.
"I certainly understand why you're asking and understand why people have been asking Secretary Mayorkas," Psaki said. "Those are numbers that are -- the secretary -- the Department of Homeland Security would have the most up-to-date numbers."
"But why is it so hard to keep track of a simple number like that?" asked ABC News White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega. "Why can't you give it? Why can't he give it? It’s been two days now he's been asked that."
"I'm certain they will provide it. It's an absolutely fair question to ask, and I'm certain he just wanted to have the most up-to-date numbers to provide," Psaki responded.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Mayorkas on Tuesday, expressing her concerns about the treatment of migrants at the hands of agents for Border Patrol, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas promised her an update on the investigation into the incident involving Border Patrol agents on horseback and said the department is taking its obligations to provide humanitarian support seriously, according to a readout of the conversation from the vice president's office.
ABC News’ Kenneth Moton, Luke Barr, Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol could issue its first subpoenas in the coming days, possibly targeting several former high-level aides to President Donald Trump for records and information, sources tell ABC News.
Former GOP congressman and Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House aides Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller are among those of interest to the committee, sources familiar with the matter have told ABC News.
Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale, who, like the other aides, remains close to the former president, could also be subpoenaed by the panel, sources said.
Sources also said that John Eastman, a lawyer who worked with Trump's legal team last year, could also be subpoenaed for records and testimony by the committee.
Eastman was the author of a controversial memo obtained by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results on Jan. 6 to keep Trump in office by rejecting the electors in nearly a dozen states.
A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment when reached by ABC News.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters on Monday that the first subpoenas could be issued "within a week."
Lawmakers were briefed on the status of the probe by committee staff for more than five hours Monday night in the Capitol, meeting in person for the first time in weeks to walk through the complex inquiry via PowerPoint slides.
Thompson said the committee has scheduled testimony with persons of interest, but would not say who those people are and whether they have officially accepted the invitations from the committee.
Committee investigators are in the process of reviewing thousands of pages of documents obtained in response to requests issued in recent weeks to federal government agencies and 35 social media and communications companies.
The panel has also requested documents from the National Archives, which maintains and preserves White House records. National Archives officials said they're in the process of reviewing the request and have yet to turn over any documents to the committee for their review.
(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday worked to salvage his sweeping legislative agenda as Democratic infighting imperiled his ambitious goals on infrastructure, climate change, and Americans' relationship with government into peril.
The president planned to host a series of Democratic congressional leaders and factions at the White House, with the goal of pushing two pieces of legislation to the finish line: the bipartisan $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate but faces challenges in the House, and a potentially much larger bill with hundreds of billions of dollars for "human infrastructure" -- funding for child care, eldercare, universal preschool, free community college, combating climate change, and a host of other Democratic priorities.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters late Tuesday that she intends to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor next week -- as early as Monday -- for consideration, but it’s unclear if and when the lower chamber will vote on the bill.
Pelosi and Democratic leadership have urged their entire caucus to support the bill, despite the fact that the $3.5 trillion bill is still weeks away from completion and progressives have said they won’t support the bipartisan bill unless the larger social bill is passed. Historically, Pelosi is loath to put a bill on the floor that will fail, so leadership must decide soon how they intend to play this.
Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who met with Pelosi on Tuesday for 90 minutes in her office and is expected to meet with Biden later Wednesday -- told ABC News that more than half of her caucus, which stands at nearly 100 members, is ready to tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the larger progressive bill isn’t ready by next week.
Meanwhile, moderate Democrats in both houses of Congress oppose some specific items in the larger bill -- which Biden calls his "Build Back Better agenda" -- as well as its overall price tag. They've threatened to tank that bill if significant changes aren't made to it -- changes the progressives adamantly oppose.
“Our belief is that it's not, it's not a random number, it's about what we are putting into the bill and what we're willing to take out. So if there are people who say they want a smaller bill, are they going to take out childcare or are they going to take out housing or are they going to take out climate change efforts? What is it that we're going to take out? For us, it's never been a $3.5 trillion bill. It’s a $0 bill, because there was plenty of money to pay for the entire thing,” Jayapal told ABC News.
With his agenda at risk, Biden hosted Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Wednesday afternoon, followed by Democratic moderates from both chambers -- including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have expressed opposition to the larger spending bill. Later in the afternoon, he planned to meet with Jayapal and other progressives from both the House and Senate, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the White House said.
Returning from the White House later Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters that Democrats' plan to hold the physical infrastructure bill vote early next week was still “on schedule.”
“We are calm and everybody’s good and our work is almost done,” she said, when asked about the larger bill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega that it was not a make-or-break moment for Biden's spending proposals.
"I would never describe it that way," Psaki said Wednesday. "But I would say, look, this is an important moment where we're in the pivotal period of our negotiations and discussions."
Psaki said Biden was holding three separate meetings -- rather than one -- because "this is a messy sausage-making process." She said he "sees his role as uniting and as working to bring together people."
"The president's bringing people of a range of viewpoints on big, important packages that are going to make their lives better here to the White House to have a discussion about it," she said. "He's rolling up his sleeves. He's walking them to the Oval Office, he'll have some COVID-safe snacks."
Late Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he hoped Biden was "the secret sauce."
“The president of the United States is always a very influential figure, and I know he wants both bills passed," Hoyer told reporters.
Biden senior adviser Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, traveled to the Hill to meet with House Democrats Wednesday afternoon, too.
Manchin has said for months he believes there should be a “strategic pause” before Congress takes up the reconciliation bill, citing his concerns about spending. His opposition to the price tag runs in tandem with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Either one of them could tank the progressive bill from becoming law.
Separately, progressives are insisting that a pathway to citizenship is included in the bill. The Senate parliamentarian dealt a blow to Democrats late Sunday after ruling that immigration reform does not have a direct budgetary impact and therefor could not be included in the reconciliation bill.
Schumer and other Democrats expressed deep disappointment and vowed to continue fighting for new pathways to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
The messy legislative fight carries high stakes with next year's midterms looming and the president hoping to chalk up a major win Democrats can point to as his approval sags after a much criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
John Podesta, an influential Democrat who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, sent a memorandum to the office of every Democratic member of Congress on Tuesday, warning them to pare back the $3.5 trillion bill -- or risk losing control of Congress.
Podesta said he “wholeheartedly” supported that bill -- and actually thought it should “do even more" -- but that "the political reality is clear" and that Democrats "will not secure the full $3.5 trillion investment."
He called on Democrats to unite, saying progressives should accept a smaller price tag, and that moderates must swallow the other package in addition to the physical infrastructure deal they support. Doing nothing, he said, would fail Americans and could mean the end of Democratic control on Capitol Hill.
“It would signal a complete and utter failure of our democratic duty, and a reckless abdication of our responsibility,” Podesta wrote.
Meanwhile, Biden must also contend with a looming possible government shutdown on Oct. 1. Democrats in the House passed a short-term spending bill late Tuesday that would punt the shutdown fight to Dec. 3. The legislation also provides billions in aid for emergency disaster relief and Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit to December 2022.
But Senate Republicans have vowed to block any legislation that would lift or suspend the debt limit.
Senate Republicans say they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are currently crafting -- even though the debt limit does not authorize new spending and is instead paying off previous debt, much of it incurred during the Trump administration.
Senate Democrats have countered that they have lifted the debt limit with Republicans under the Trump administration on multiple occasions and say it's a bipartisan responsibility.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an "economic catastrophe."
Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.
"Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans’ help with raising the debt limit. I’ve explained this clearly and consistently for over two months," McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier this week.
Biden has often touted the deal-making skills he honed over decades in the Senate, and the next few days will put his abilities to the test.
(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer booster shots Wednesday for seniors and other high-risk Americans, paving the way for third doses to be offered as early as the end of the week.
The decision would allow for anyone over the age of 65 to get a booster, as well as people as young as 18 if they have a medical condition that puts them at risk of severe COVID-19 or if they work a frontline job that makes it more likely that they would get infected.
FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said that list should include health care workers, teachers and grocery story workers, as well as people in prisons and homeless shelters.
"This pandemic is dynamic and evolving, with new data about vaccine safety and effectiveness becoming available every day," Woodcock said in a statement. "As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed."
The deliberation follows a recommendation last week by the FDA's independent scientific advisers that, while protection from vaccination is strong, immunity probably wanes after six months and is important to replenish for certain high-risk groups.
The advisory panel, called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said last Friday there wasn't enough evidence yet to recommend every vaccinated adult get a third dose.
Instead, the panel recommended the extra shot for those 65 and older or at high risk of severe COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine exactly which populations are eligible.
The FDA's vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, framed the booster debate as one "based on complex data sets evolving in front of our eyes," but with key information still incoming on how boosters will impact a wider age group, the panel ultimately indicated current data has yet to mature enough to recommend boosters for all.
"We need safety data for younger populations and we need to really know what the benefit is," Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News Friday. "So far we've got some reasonable data for older people, but I really think that there are too many questions on the younger populations."
Currently, only immunocompromised Americans are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. An estimated 2 million people have received a third mRNA based vaccine from the two manufacturers. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have also asked the government to agree to booster shots for a larger population, and those requests are pending FDA review. FDA decisions are expected within the coming weeks.
If and when the career scientists at the FDA decide to sign off on boosters, the Pfizer vaccine can be labeled and administered as a three-dose vaccine for certain groups.
But before delivering the shots, the CDC will need to issue official recommendations.
A separate independent panel that advises the CDC is set to meet Wednesday for presentations and then again on Thursday to discuss the data in more granular detail before a vote.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is then expected to weigh in by the end of the week with an official recommendation for who exactly should get the shots.
Among the recommendations by the CDC will be a decision on who qualifies as "high risk" and which "front-line" workers are at highest risk of exposure.
Experts say it's possible the FDA will endorse the idea of booster shots for people under 65 without conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness as new data comes in.
"The story is not over because more and more data is coming in," White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC's Martha Raddatz on "This Week" Sunday.
"I think we really do need to test the water with one foot as we move forward," Dr. Paul Offit, an FDA advisory panel member and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News following the panel's vote last week.
"By the end of this week I think we'll learn more about exactly what the recommendations are," he said.
ABC News' Eric M. Strauss, Anne Flaherty, Sony Salzman and Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- A relentless drought and wildfire season in America's West and a tense standoff over federal leases for oil and gas drilling have been early tests for the Biden administration's climate policy and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold the job and first indigenous member of a White House Cabinet.
"I can't speak for every tribe or even my tribe, but I can make sure that tribal leaders have a seat at the table," Haaland said in an interview with ABC News Live Prime. "Certainly, in this time of climate change bearing down upon us, that indigenous knowledge about our natural world will be extremely valuable and important to all of us."
"Indian tribes have been on this continent for millennia, for tens of thousands of years," she added. "They know how to take care of the land … that's knowledge that's been passed down for generations and generations."
Haaland, a former U.S. representative from New Mexico and one of the first two native women to serve in Congress, is leaning in on her experience as a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe to confront the historic impacts of climate change on communities nationwide.
She leads the agency which manages more than 480 million acres of public lands and a government leasing program that has allowed private energy businesses to tap into valuable natural resources situated on federal property.
Early in his term, President Joe Biden ordered a moratorium of new leases -- with an eye toward discontinuing the program altogether -- in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The move has made Haaland, who's now conducting a formal review of the program, a target of criticism from the energy industry and Republican lawmakers from states dependent on oil and gas production.
"You said that if you had it your way, and I quote, you'd stop oil and gas leasing on public lands. As secretary, you will get to have it your way," Sen. Steve Daines of Montana charged during Haaland's confirmation hearing earlier this year. The Republican later voted against her nomination.
"It's a pause on just new leases, not existing, valid leases," Haaland responded, explaining the moratorium. Last month, a federal court ordered the Interior Department to resume the leasing program while legal challenges continue.
"It has the potential to cost jobs here in the United States, good-paying energy jobs," Frank Macchiarola, an energy industry lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute told ABC News. "It has the potential to increase costs for consumers."
Most U.S. oil and gas production occurs on private land, according to the Congressional Research Service. Roughly 9% of American output came from federal lands in 2019, the agency said.
Haaland is also helping to lead the federal government's response to historic drought and wildfires fueled by climate change.
Ninety percent of the American West is experiencing "severe" or "exceptional" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The conditions have ravaged the agricultural industry in nearly a dozen states and forced several to enact mandatory water cutbacks for residents. California, Arizona and New Mexico have also been battling some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in years.
“Drought doesn't just impact one community. It affects all of us, from farmers and ranchers to city dwellers and Indian tribes," Haaland said on a visit to Denver in July. "We all have a role to use water wisely, manage our resources with every community in mind, work collaboratively and respect each other during this challenging time.”
The Interior Department has deployed millions of dollars in federal relief funds and sped recruitment of government firefighters. Last month, Haaland announced a pay raise for those on the front lines.
"We need to think about, you know, does that come down to management? Is that something that we need to reinvestigate how some of these forested lands are being managed? And is there a better way to prepare those forested lands for the next fire season?" said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, who hopes the worsening drought will lead to a greater review of how federal lands are managed and can best combat drought.
Haaland is also overseeing a multi-billion dollar renovation plan for the National Park System; a renewed campaign to improve access to the parks for communities of color; and steps to address longstanding protests by some tribal groups demanding greater control over federal parklands.
"You have to understand that for there to be any justice or repair on these lands, it has to go back to the roots. And for indigenous peoples on these lands -- it goes back to land theft," said Krystal Two Bulls, director of the Landback movement, which calls for all federal lands to be returned to their original tribes. "This entire so-called country was built on top of -- stolen land by stolen people."
Two Bulls and other Landback organizers argue that tribes are best suited to care for these lands given their deep history and knowledge of the natural world.
"Whoever's currently in charge is not protecting these lands, indigenous peoples, that's not what we're about, we're about that relationship to the land," Two Bulls told ABC News. "Native peoples knew how to manage and work with the fire, as a natural element, we knew how to do that."
Haaland has said she wants to use that knowledge in her tenure at the Interior Department and to make clear that "those voices are heard."
"Well, we absolutely are listening," she said.
During official travel, she regularly pays homage to her roots; she was known to wear traditional moccasins in the House and donned ceremonial tribal garb for her swearing in with Vice President Kamala Harris. She even addressed senators in the native language of the Laguna Pueblo during her confirmation hearing in the spring.
She also brings a legacy of service to her country; her father served as a Marine for three decades and her mother served in the Navy. Haaland said that she has always had a connection with the outdoors, and recalls spending time outside often with her father, who was an avid fisherman.
"I worked hard, and you know I followed a path, but I also stand on the shoulders of … so many tribal leaders who have come before me," Haaland said. "And so I feel very confident that if it weren't for those people that I wouldn't have had that path to follow."
Haaland was confirmed as secretary of the interior by a 51-40 vote in the Senate in March. Once sworn in, she took over the reins at an agency that less than two centuries earlier had a mission to "civilize or exterminate" indigenous people and led the oppressive relocation of Native Americans.
She says that history gave her no hesitation.
"This is our ancestral homeland, this is Native Americans', this is our ancestral homeland. We're not going anywhere," Haaland said. "This is land we love and care about."