The United States says it gave France only a few hours’ notice of defense deal that Paris called a ‘knife in the back.’


Daily Political Briefing

Sept. 16, 2021, 5:37 p.m. ET

Sept. 16, 2021, 5:37 p.m. ET

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The United States acknowledged on Thursday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move that French officials have denounced as a major betrayal by one of its closest allies.

France had been trying to strike its own, multibillion dollar deal with Australia, and French officials said that the new agreement, which Mr. Biden announced at the White House on Wednesday with the leaders of Australia and Britain joining virtually, was an affront.

President Biden’s national security adviser informed France on Wednesday morning that the United States had reached the deal with Australia, revealing the plan to the top French diplomat in Washington on the same day that Mr. Biden made it public, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. The person asked for anonymity to talk about diplomatic discussions.

The degree of French anger recalled the acrimony between Paris and Washington in 2003 over the Iraq war and involved language not seen since then. “This is not done between allies,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, said in an interview with Franceinfo radio, calling the deal a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision.”

French officials described the exclusion of France, a NATO member, from the new British-Australian-U.S. military partnership as a moment that will deepen an already widening rift between longstanding allies. President Emmanuel Macron has already said he intends to pursue French “strategic autonomy” from the United States.

But even as American officials scrambled to respond to the French anger, they dismissed the notion of a serious rift. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the United States informed the French before the president’s announcement but did not have an obligation to include the country in their arrangement with Australia and Britain.

“This is not the only global engagement or global cooperative partnership the United States has in the world,” she said. She added that the United States and France will continue to be partners in a number of other ways, noting that “the French are a member of the G-7.”

Still, the lack of consultation — and the last-minute revelation — has infuriated French officials in Washington, who on Thursday angrily canceled a gala at their Washington embassy to protest what they called a rash and sudden policy decision that resembled those of former President Donald J. Trump.

Asked what Mr. Biden thinks about being compared to Mr. Trump, Ms. Psaki shot back: “The president doesn’t think about it much.”

The gala was to commemorate the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” celebrating the French navy’s help in a 1781 battle during America’s fight for independence.

Philippe Étienne, the French ambassador to the United States, said on Thursday that he learned about the deal from news reports, followed by a call from Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to Mr. Biden.

The indignation from Mr. Étienne and Mr. Le Drian reflected the fact that France had its own deal with Australia, concluded in 2016, for conventional, less technologically sophisticated submarines. That $66 billion deal is now defunct, but a harsh legal battle over the contract appears inevitable.

“A knife in the back,” Mr. Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.”

French officials in Washington accused top American officials of hiding information about the deal despite repeated attempts by French diplomats, who suspected that something was in the works, to learn more.

Mr. Étienne, one of France’s most experienced diplomats, acknowledged in an interview Thursday that there had been discussions with the Australians over the rising price tag of the submarines that France was supposed to deliver to Australia — which were not nuclear-powered, even though France has its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

In early summer, the French government had declined to sign documents committing to the next phase of the deal — apparently because of the pricing disputes. But Mr. Étienne said the deal was about more than just a defense contract.

“We have assets in this region,” he said of France, noting that it has conducted missions in the Pacific, and strategic plans to increase France’s presence. “We take it very seriously.” He added: “It was not only a commercial contract.” He called it “an essential part of our overall Indo-Pacific strategy.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and David E. Sanger contributed reporting.

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Biden Outlines Economic Recovery in Wake of Coronavirus

President Biden detailed the economic outlook for the country and his administration’s pathway toward recovery, with a focus on ensuring success for the middle class.

I believe we’re at an inflection point in this country. One of those moments where the decisions were about to make can change, literally change, the trajectory of our nation for years and possibly decades to come. Each inflection point in this nation’s history represents a fundamental choice. I believe that America at this moment is facing such a choice. Are we going to continue with an economy where the overwhelming share of the benefits go to big corporations and the very wealthy? Or are we going to take this moment, right now, to set this country on a new path? One that invests in this nation creates real, sustained economic growth and that benefits everyone, including working people and middle-class folks. That’s something we haven’t realized in this country for decades. Yes, the pandemic has caused a lot of economic problems in the country. But the fact is, our economy faced challenges long before this pandemic struck. Working people were struggling to make it long before the pandemic arrived. Big corporations and the very wealthy were doing very well before the pandemic. That’s why I’ve said starting back in my campaign for president, that it’s not enough to just build back. We have to build back better than before.

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President Biden detailed the economic outlook for the country and his administration’s pathway toward recovery, with a focus on ensuring success for the middle class.CreditCredit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Biden is set to speak with Democratic leaders on Thursday as lawmakers race to iron out deep divisions over how to structure and finance his $3.5 trillion economic package and stave off a government shutdown at the end of the month.

The joint conversation with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, is the latest outreach by the president to congressional Democrats this week, with the success of many of Mr. Biden’s policy priorities hinging on passage of the $3.5 trillion package.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that the discussion would focus on advancing Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, largely the social safety net package and the $1 trillion infrastructure package, which has already been approved by the Senate. On Wednesday, Mr. Biden met separately with two key moderates, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have both expressed reservations about the price tag of the larger plan.

“We’re in the middle of the process so the president knows that he’s going to need to be — he’s eager to be — very engaged directly with senators, directly with leadership to move this forward,” Ms. Psaki said.

Because Democrats are using an arcane budget process, known as reconciliation, to try to pass the $3.5 trillion plan and avoid a Republican filibuster, the party must remain united in the Senate and can only spare three votes in the House. But moderate and conservative Democrats have balked at several elements of the package, and divisions remain between the House and the Senate.

The call comes as Democrats are also coalescing around legislation that would avert a lapse in government funding on Oct. 1 and grant emergency funding to support Afghan refugees and disaster recovery efforts. Democrats are considering a stopgap bill that would extend federal funding through Dec. 3, though details remain in flux.

It also remains unclear whether party leaders will attach a provision that would keep the government from defaulting on its debt. But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, has warned that he and most Republicans would oppose raising the limit on the Treasury Department’s borrowing ability.

“Our view is this should be bipartisan as it has been in the past,” Ms. Psaki said.

Credit…Gordon Welters for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Weeks after their dramatic escape from Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans hoping to be resettled in the United States remain on military bases across the country and overseas as medical and security screenings slow the process.

A small but worrisome measles outbreak has contributed to the delays, causing a halt in evacuation flights as federal officials scramble to contain cases and inoculate new arrivals against the disease and other illnesses, including the coronavirus.

As of Sept. 14, about 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan had arrived in the United States. The vast majority were at risk under Taliban rule after the U.S. withdrawal from the country last month. Nearly 49,000 are living on eight domestic military bases, waiting to be resettled in the United States, according to an internal federal document obtained by The New York Times. Roughly 18,000 are on bases overseas, largely in Germany. Some leave within weeks, but most stay longer.

The screenings, which involve an array of federal agencies, follow a condensed and harried evacuation effort last month shortly before the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan. About 100 Americans who want to leave, and an unknown number of vulnerable Afghans, remain in the country.

Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, defended the Biden administration’s evacuation operation during hours of congressional testimony this week, which included calls from Republican critics for his resignation and charges that the administration failed to adequately plan for the Afghan government’s collapse to the Taliban.

Mr. Blinken said there was no deadline for getting people out of the country and that “in the end, we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety.”

While Afghan evacuees have escaped the Taliban, their lives remain in limbo, with restless children and little to do on the bases across the United States, including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, where more than 12,700 people were being housed as of last week, and Fort Bliss in Texas, which has received more than 9,700.

“We will be here one month or more,” said Milad Darwesh, who arrived Saturday at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey after traveling for days to reach the United States. There are nearly 8,000 evacuees at the base.

Mr. Darwesh said he and his family narrowly escaped Kabul in a harrowing journey with the Taliban on their heels to the gates of the airport there. They spent four days in Doha, Qatar, along with thousands of other evacuees, with little water for drinking or washing. He and his family were then transported to an airplane hangar at a base in Italy before finally making it to Fort Dix.

“It’s nice here,” said Mr. Darwesh, a former military translator who has been waiting for two years to have his visa processed. “We now have our own room.”

Zainullah Zaki, who is traveling with his family, landed in Qatar on Aug. 18 and traveled on to Germany, where he has been told over and over again that he might be on a flight “in days.”

“Because of measles, all the flights are paused right now,” John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Wednesday about those still on military installations overseas. “So nobody is going anywhere. But our goal has been to try and move them as quickly as possible. We know that these men and women and their families want to get on with their lives.”

Seven measles cases were discovered among Afghans at the domestic military bases. Very few evacuees have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a Sept. 10 internal government update. Afghan nationals settling in the United States are required to have a series of vaccinations, which are being given at military bases in the United States and will soon be administered overseas as well.

Many evacuees have arrived at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and hospitals in the state have complained to the federal government that they have been overwhelmed by Afghans in need of medical treatment. Health care providers have asked for financial assistance, and Virginia’s two senators, Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, sent a letter to Biden administration officials pushing for better coordination.

“Virginia ambulances and hospitals, already occupied with regular patient needs and dealing with the additional stress of Covid, have done superb work to partner with federal agencies managing this processing effort and make sure that emergency health needs of our Afghan partners are met,” Katie Stuntz, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine, said. “The health providers deserve reimbursement for this work, and Senator Kaine is working with all stakeholders to make sure that happens.”

Refugee groups have scrambled for weeks to prepare for large numbers of Afghan refugees but so far have seen only a trickle of people ready to be resettled.

“In last few weeks, we served more than 100 people,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency that has affiliates in 22 states. “Some are coming with little more than a backpack. We know the importance of an orderly system that processes and prepares these new Afghan arrivals, helping them make informed decisions on where they ultimately want to resettle.”

Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, said on Wednesday that the administration was trying to move the evacuees off military bases “as quickly and efficiently as we can.”

“We would like to see them resettled in communities,” Mr. Price said. “So it is not in our interest, it’s not in their interest for them to reside on a U.S. military base or any other official installation for any longer than is necessary, and I think you’ll see that we’re able to administer these vital steps with a good deal of efficiency.”

U.S. military service members have been supporting Afghans at bases by raising funds and delivering items such as prenatal vitamins, nutritional supplements and clothing. Many nonprofits, including Armed Services YMCA and the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, have also been helping, but the distribution of supplies has been slow because of a dearth of personnel.

Miriam Jordan contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Michael Crowley from Washington.

Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

The House Oversight Committee has widened its probe into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

In letters sent to the industry executives Thursday morning, the committee also requested information, including internal documents and emails on climate policy going back to 2015, related to the companies’ and groups’ efforts to undermine climate policy.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” read the letter to Darren Woods, the Exxon chief executive.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”

The letters were sent to the companies and groups Thursday morning, according to the committee. The recipients didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment early Thursday.

The inquiry — modeled on the tobacco hearings of the 1990s, which paved the way for far tougher nicotine regulations — sets up a showdown between progressive Democrats and an industry that faces increasing scrutiny. A wave of lawsuits filed by cities and states across the country has accused oil and gas companies of engaging in decades-long, multimillion-dollar campaigns to downplay warnings from their own scientists about the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate.

Credit…Pool photo by Christophe Archambault

A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a Washington lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the United States for a fight against the Taliban, according to a lobbying contract and a representative of the resistance leader.

Ahmad Massoud, the leader of one of the most prominent groups of fighters seeking to oust the Taliban from power, signed the contract this week with Robert Stryk, who built a lobbying practice during the Trump administration working with clients that others on K Street were wary of representing.

The contract, which was filed with the Justice Department on Wednesday evening and indicates that the work will be pro bono, comes as an array of Afghan constituencies are seeking lobbying help as they jockey for recognition in Washington and the international community.

While Afghan opposition groups have support from some Republicans in Washington, the Biden administration has made clear that it has no interest in playing any further role in a civil war in Afghanistan.

The administration is also seeking to balance opposition to the Taliban’s rule with the need for cooperation on issues like evacuating remaining Americans and American allies from the country.

Three lobbyists said they heard the Taliban are seeking representation on K Street as they seek international funding and legitimacy. It is unclear how such an arrangement could be structured to comply with sanctions expected to restrict the finances of the Taliban, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

And a well-financed Afghan group that has been active in Washington, the Afghanistan-U.S. Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council, could become a vehicle for representing members of the country’s since-disbanded parliament who are discussing the possibility of forming a government in exile, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Massoud, the 32-year-old son of a legendary mujahedeen commander who led the fight against repeated Soviet offensives in the 1980s, is leading the resistance to the Taliban from the same valley from which his father operated.

But the struggle faces long odds, with resistance fighters surrounded by the Taliban and armed with dwindling supplies and no visible outside support.

A representative for Mr. Massoud said that a primary motivation for his lobbying campaign was to stop any move by the United States and other governments to grant legitimacy to the Taliban — or anyone other than Mr. Massoud — as the rightful leader of Afghanistan.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden will virtually convene on Friday some of the leaders of the nations most responsible for climate change, urging them to do more to slash greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a critical United Nations summit in November.

Mr. Biden also will urge other countries to sign onto a global goal of reducing methane, the main component of natural gas and an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, a White House official said, speaking to reporters on a background call on the condition of anonymity.

Countries that sign on to the “global methane pledge” hammered out by the United States and Europe would agree to work together to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, according to European and United States climate negotiators who were not authorized to discuss details of the plan publicly.

“We’re trying to get people to join into a global effort to try to cope with methane,” John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s climate change envoy, said in an interview over the weekend, adding, “It’s hugely destructive. It accelerates the rate of global damage.”

Carbon dioxide is the biggest driver of climate change, but methane is more potent in the shorter term, warming the atmosphere more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide does over a 20-year period.

Karen Harbert, president and chief executive of the American Gas Association, said in a statement that natural gas utilities in the United States are “all in” when it comes to addressing climate change, but did not comment directly on the methane challenge.

The meeting will be the second this year of the Major Economies Forum, which Mr. Biden revived after former President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the forum and the Paris climate agreement. Mr. Biden rejoined the climate accord when he entered office.

The White House did not release a list of attendees, but the Major Economies Forum traditionally includes a mix of wealthy European nations and major emerging economies. It is not clear if officials from China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will attend on Friday, but the country’s president, Xi Jinping, attended the first summit in April.

The discussions come less than six weeks before talks in Glasgow, where nations that promised in Paris to stave off the worst consequences of climate change will be expected to show what they’ve done and pledge even more ambitious goals.

The Biden administration has promised to cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Getting there though depends on passage of a $3.5 trillion budget bill that includes a policy to substantially cut fossil fuel pollution by the power sector. That legislation is facing an uphill battle in Congress.

China and India have not yet pledged deeper emissions cuts, and the Biden administration has been leaning on both countries to do so.

The United Nations’ top climate science body found this year that the world has already baked in a hotter future and that global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. Keeping temperatures below that threshold is critical to avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, and the window to enact strong policies is closing.

Credit…David Mcnew/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Senators introduced a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that would create a pathway to citizenship for some children and young adults who were raised in the United States but face deportation at age 21.

The legislation, called the America’s Children Act, was introduced after the House this week advanced the text of a sweeping $3.5 trillion spending plan that would also write into law a pathway to citizenship for the same group, known as documented Dreamers. They are young people who lived in the country legally until age 21 as the dependents of parents who hold nonimmigrant visas. But many never qualify for permanent residency. And some that are eligible for green cards as children get stuck in the vast green card backlog and are unable to gain residency before they turn 21 and are kicked out of line.

The moves indicate broad bipartisan support in both chambers for documented Dreamers following a yearslong push for them to be included in an immigration overhaul.

“For too long, young immigrants like us, who have been raised and educated here as Americans, have been forced to leave the country we call home,” said Dip Patel, the founder of Improve the Dream, an organization that advocates for documented Dreamers. “The introduction of America’s Children Act means so much to thousands of us who have only known America as their home.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program introduced by President Obama in 2012, which protects about 650,000 young immigrants from deportation, requires applicants to be undocumented, leaving out documented Dreamers.

Under the proposed legislation, at least 200,000 young adults who have lived in the United States for at least 10 years on a valid visa and have graduated from an institution of higher education would be eligible for permanent residence.

Mr. Patel, 25, a Canadian citizen, has lived in the United States for more than 16 years. His parents came to the United States on E-2 visas, a program that allows small business investors to reside in the United States, and opened a grocery store in Southern Illinois.

It was not until he was in high school that Mr. Patel realized that his dependent visa would expire when he turned 21, complicating his future. An E-2 visa is one that can be renewed endlessly, but it does not offer a pathway to citizenship.

“It’s such a little-known thing,” said Mr. Patel. “Most Americans don’t even know that it’s possible for someone, an immigrant child, to be brought here under a legal status but still not have a path to citizenship.”

The America’s Children Act is the first effort to create a path to citizenship for documented Dreamers that has broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by three Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee and have jurisdiction over immigration legislation, including the chairman, Senator Dick Durban of Illinois. The Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine are also co-sponsors.

Democrats hope to pass broad immigration reform, including for documented Dreamers, through the $3.5 trillion social policy package, but it is unclear whether it will ultimately be included. Because Democrats are seeking to pass the bill through a unilateral maneuver known as budget reconciliation, the Senate parliamentarian, who is the chamber’s top rules enforcer, will ultimately rule on whether including an overhaul of immigration law in the economic package would violate a Senate rule dating back to the mid-1980s.

Representative Deborah Ross, Democrat of North Carolina, who led the effort to introduce stand-alone legislation to protect documented Dreamers and co-sponsored the House bill, said that she thought the case for including immigration reform in the legislation was clear. She cited the tens of billions of dollars in growth that experts have estimated that documented Dreamers alone would add to the economy if allowed to live in the United States.

Mr. Patel, a clinical pharmacist in Illinois, has been able to stay in the United States, first on a student visa and now on an employer-sponsored work visa. But many in his position are not able to find alternative visas and must leave the country. And Mr. Patel still must renew his current visa every three years. The process is challenging because the terms of a nonimmigrant visa require the applicant to demonstrate that they do not intend to settle permanently in the United States.

“In my case and that of many others, it’s almost impossible to do that when you’ve lived in America for basically your whole life,” Mr. Patel said.

He began Improve the Dream to create a supportive community for other families in his position, he said, many of whom were afraid to speak up for fear that they might lose what immigration status they had. The organization grew quickly, and ultimately helped draft the America’s Children Act.

“I have confidence that documented Dreamers won’t be ignored anymore,” Mr. Patel said. “This broad bipartisan support shows that this solution should be included in any efforts at immigration reform.”

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

For weeks, Democrats openly worried that Latino voters were not going to show up in force for Gov. Gavin Newsom. That might have spelled doom for the party, which has relied on support from Latino voters to rise to its current grip on power in the state.

But early numbers suggest that it might have been history repeating itself: a late investment in Latino voter outreach, and a late uptick in interest and voting among Latinos. Though it was far from unanimous, the majority of Latino voters backed Mr. Newsom, with some Latino-heavy precincts defeating the recall by as much as 88 percent, according to an analysis by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Early numbers, though, suggest that Latino voters may still not be showing up to the polls at the same rates as white, Black and Asian American voters. As of Tuesday morning, 30 percent of Latino voters who received their ballots by mail had sent them back, compared with 50 percent of white voters and 40 percent of Black voters, according to Political Data Inc., a Sacramento-based research group.

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Newsom Remains Governor After California’s Recall Election

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a victory speech after defeating California’s Republican-led recall vote in a landslide.

We are enjoying an overwhelmingly “no” vote tonight here in the state of California. But “no” is not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her fate and future. And so I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercise their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that’s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years. I just want to say this, tonight I’m humbled, grateful, but resolved in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy, to make more gentle the life of this world. Thank you all very much. And thank you to 40 million Americans, 40 million Californians, thank you for rejecting this recall.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a victory speech after defeating California’s Republican-led recall vote in a landslide.CreditCredit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Historically, Latinos are more likely to vote late, and many observers thought it was possible to see a last-minute surge among those voters. Exit polling suggests that Latinos made up roughly 24 percent of all voters in the recall, and that about 60 percent of those Latino voters favored keeping the governor in office.

But early precinct analysis suggests the level of support for Mr. Newsom was likely much higher among Latinos. In Orange County, an estimated 83 percent of Latino voters cast their ballots against the recall, while in San Diego County, that number was estimated at 79 percent, according to the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

“There’s nothing atypical here,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who has been critical of both parties’ Latino voter outreach in the past. “This was simple math, especially because it was driven by negative partisanship: You vote against Republicans if you hate Republicans — that is true for white voters and it has been true for us for longer.”

Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Almost a month ago, President Biden announced that coronavirus booster shots would be made available to most adults in the United States this month. But a week before that plan is to begin, its details remain up in the air, with dissenting opinions coming from inside and outside the government.

A series of conflicting reviews this week illustrates the fierce argument among scientists about whether booster shots are needed, and if so, for whom. In a review made public on Wednesday, regulators at the Food and Drug Administration raised caveats about third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech. Meanwhile, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, also released on Wednesday, indicated that recipients of a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine in Israel were far less likely to develop severe Covid than those who had received two injections.

And in The Lancet this week, an article by two of the F.D.A.’s top vaccine scientists, among others, argued that there was no credible evidence that the vaccines’ potency against severe disease declined substantially over time, undermining one of the key arguments in favor of boosters. The scientists, who were not writing on the F.D.A.’s behalf, had announced that they would leave the agency this fall, but their public opposition to the administration’s plan caught the agency’s leaders by surprise.

The White House had originally planned to offer boosters to recipients of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccine, but is now planning boosters only for the Pfizer shots.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stressed on Wednesday that the administration’s most senior health officials — including Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — had signed a statement announcing Mr. Biden’s plan. “Nothing has changed as it relates to the eight top doctors who put out that statement, almost a month ago,” Ms. Psaki said.

But the administration may have to change course again, depending on crucial meetings of expert advisory committees to both the F.D.A., which is responsible for authorizing vaccines, and the C.D.C., which typically has the final word on vaccination policies.

The F.D.A. committee will meet on Friday to discuss and vote on Pfizer-BioNTech’s application to offer boosters to people 16 and older. The C.D.C. panel is expected to meet next week. Agencies are not required to follow the panels’ recommendations, but they generally do so.

Depending on the experts’ response, the F.D.A. could decide to scale back an authorization. According to people familiar with the discussions, even if the agency approves the application as it stands, the C.D.C. might recommend boosters only for populations that are particularly at risk.



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