William J. Walker, Sidelined on Jan. 6, Has New Job Securing Capitol

WASHINGTON — As a mob of President Donald J. Trump’s supporters rampaged through the Capitol on Jan. 6, William J. Walker, who was commanding the District of Columbia National Guard, watched helplessly, waiting for hours for approval to deploy his troops to help a badly overrun police force put down the deadly riot.

He suspected — and still does — that part of the reason for the delay was that Defense Department officials were overly concerned about the optics of sending in the Guard against the pro-Trump rioters, a move that amounted to special treatment of the mostly white crowd when compared to the law enforcement tactics used against protesters at racial justice marches in the recent past.

“We were all frustrated by the tight limits that were placed upon us,” Mr. Walker said. “The 57th anniversary of the march of Dr. Martin Luther King? No restrictions. On July 4? No restrictions. When the monuments were attacked and we came out? No restrictions to move the quick reaction force. The restrictions came for Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.”

On Saturday, when pro-Trump protesters are set to descend on Washington to rally in support of those charged in the Jan. 6 assault, Mr. Walker, who is now the top security official for the House of Representatives as its new sergeant-at-arms, said things would be different. This time, he is off the sidelines and a crucial player in preparing the Capitol for potential violence.

warned on Friday could lead to violence. “We’re going to get through this.”

He and other Capitol officials have changed policies based on lessons learned in the wake of Jan. 6. A damning portrait has emerged of the preparations and response to the attack, including police leaders failing to equip officers with much-needed riot gear and intelligence officials ignoring or discounting serious threats of violence from Trump supporters.

“The U.S. Capitol Police were surprised. They had not anticipated anything like that,” Mr. Walker during a recent interview in his office. “Using the lessons identified on that tragic day, Jan. 6, will help us ensure that we don’t have a repeat.”

For one thing, this time, the National Guard is already standing by to help; the Department of Defense authorized the deployment of 100 troops on Friday.

Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, a military intelligence officer, took over as sergeant-at-arms in the Senate; and J. Thomas Manger, a veteran police chief of departments in the Greater Washington region, recently become the chief of the Capitol Police. Only J. Brett Blanton, who as the architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintaining the complex, remains in the same position he occupied on Jan. 6. He also continues to serve on the revamped Capitol Police Board, the body charged with security decisions for the complex. A former Navy officer with a bronze star from Iraq, Mr. Blanton has said he was cut out of key security decisions regarding Jan. 6.

Congress has approved a $2.1 billion emergency spending bill to pay for Capitol security improvements, thought it stopped short of fulfilling all of the requests from top officials, including stripping out money to create a quick reaction force of the National Guard to respond to emergencies at the Capitol. Mr. Walker said he was still advocating for the creation of a retractable fence that could pop up “instantly” to prevent a breach of the Capitol.

“He offered us a million dollars — $250,000 a piece,” Mr. Walker said. “We cuffed him. I said, ‘Don’t go anywhere.’” He promptly got on a pay phone to call his supervisor to get a warrant for the man’s house.

general counsel for the Army at the time, said Mr. Walker immediately tightened up fitness and punctuality requirements.

“He got lots of complaints, but he held people to a high standard,” Colonel Matthews recalled. “He’s a classic guy in a conservative mold. He’s a very serious guy who loves the Army and loves the country. Not many people can say they were appointed by both Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. He’s a straight arrow. But he’s also a guy who speaks truth to power.”

he called “unusual” restrictions placed on the National Guard that day. He detailed how he had not received approval to mobilize troops to respond to the riot until more than three hours after he had requested it, and said military officials had expressed concerns about the “optics” of sending troops to the Capitol.

The violent rampage that unfolded over nearly five hours caused injuries to nearly 140 police officers. At least five people died during the attack and its immediate aftermath.

“Seconds mattered,” he testified. “Minutes mattered.”

Mr. Walker said the events of that day, with a mob attacking police as symbols of racism and white supremacy were paraded through the Capitol, still haunted him.

“It’s a mystery to me how in 2021, we could still have this division and deep-seated hatred,” he said. “If you study some of those that were arrested, some just got here. Some of them just became American. Somebody who just gets to America has a problem with me? That’s troublesome. I’ve been here.”

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Afghanistan Outcome Affirms a Warning: Beware the Blob

First there was the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then there was the chorus of disapproval. And then, as is so often the case in American foreign policy, there was the Blob.

“‘The Blob’ turns on Jake,” Alex Thompson and Tina Sfondeles wrote in Politico, referring to President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. And then: “I’ve got to say hats off to the Blob on this whole Afghanistan thing,” the commentator Matthew Yglesias said sarcastically on Twitter. “They couldn’t achieve any of their stated war aims, but they’ve proven they can absolutely wreck you politically.”

What is this Blob of which they speak? What does it have to do with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and whether they can actually govern? And why, like the nebulous malevolent organism in the 1958 horror film with which it shares a name, is it perpetually lurking around, sucking up everything in its path?

The term “Blob” is generally understood to describe members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment — government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like — who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen in this context as Blob-approved.

term was coined in 2016 by Benjamin J. Rhodes, who was a deputy national security adviser for President Barack Obama at the time. It was not a compliment. Rather, it was a criticism directed at foreign-policy experts with an “unrealistic set of assumptions about what America could do in the world,” Mr. Rhodes, who is now a co-host of the “Pod Save The World” podcast, said in an interview.

“It’s not that people are issued a card with their name on it that identities them as part of the Blob,” he said. But back in 2016, he singled out “Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties,” who, he said, had an unpleasant tendency to “whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order.”

a title intended to tease: “In Defense of the Blob: America’s Foreign Policy Establishment Is the Solution, Not the Problem.”

“What I find troubling about the idea of the Blob is that it taps into this old conspiratorial mind-set about what produces American foreign policy,” Mr. Brands said. “It makes it seem that American foreign policy has been so disastrous and foolish that it must have been foisted on the American people by some elite that doesn’t have their best interests at heart.”

Even Mr. Rhodes realizes that, like the gelatinous alien mass in “The Blob” movie, his creature has grown out of control.

“Everybody since then has sought to define it for their own purposes, including those who want to make it a badge of honor, and those who want to hang it on their opponents,” Mr. Rhodes said.

Maybe, and maybe not.

“Ben Rhodes had a very precise definition, and his definition was ‘people who disagree with me,’ or ‘people who disagree with me and Obama,’” said Mr. Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University.

“And he added onto that a layer of faux populism, as in ‘Woe is me, I’m just a poor assistant to the president trying to speak truth to all these well-entrenched fat cats.’ That is nutty. No one could be more inside the system than the speechwriter for the president.”

their origin story and their record as rulers.

“The reason they lash out and snarl at the Blob is because their positions are so contrary to the widespread belief about the effective use of American power internationally,” she said. “Criticism of the so-called foreign policy Blob is a way of saying, ‘I have been ineffective in persuading people that the policies I advocate are the correct ones.’”

referring to the Biden administration’s foreign policy team.)

The people claiming that there is some sort of unified theory of Blob-dom are not thinking clearly, said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. For one thing, he said, even within Brookings there is a wide range of opinion on Afghanistan. He supported the withdrawal, for instance — which would seem to make him a traitor to the Blob, even though he is, by any definition, in the Blob himself.

christened “Pope of the Blob” by the writer Andrew Sullivan in 2019. For the record, Mr. Haass’s view on Afghanistan is that America should have maintained its presence by leaving behind a small number of troops and not pulled out completely.

In an interview, Mr. Haass said he was happy to be considered part of the foreign policy establishment, but not happy that the foreign policy establishment was called the Blob.

“It’s a lazy term,” he said. “It’s a pejorative and imprecise way to dismiss those who disagree with you, and it doesn’t advance the foreign policy conversation.”

“Let’s have a serious conversation about what should be the lessons of Afghanistan, or about America’s role in the world,” Mr. Haass continued. “But to simply describe certain people who disagree with you as the Blob is useless. And that is a generous way of putting it.”

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Congress Pushes Path to Citizenship for ‘Documented Dreamers’

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.”

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As California Votes, It Rethinks Its Tradition of Direct Democracy

Recalls in California date back more than a century, to a suite of reforms passed from 1910 to 1913 under Gov. Hiram Johnson, a Republican and progressive crusader. They were the capstone of a yearslong effort to curb the political power of the Southern Pacific railroad, which all but owned the state’s government and economy, controlling politicians, judges and regulators.

Mr. Johnson’s reforms broke the hold, overhauling the state’s election system and, through a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1911, instituting the system of referendums, ballot initiatives and the recall. Kevin Starr, a California historian who died in 2017, called this “the very re-creation of the political and social order of California.”

It is often pointed out that Mr. Johnson’s reforms — tools that were explicitly created to curb the influence of big business on California’s politics — have now become a major corporate weapon. This is particularly true of initiatives, which can be put on the ballot with a few million dollars’ worth of clipboard-holding workers gathering signatures from registered voters.

One recent example was Proposition 22, a $200 million initiative by the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to prevent their drivers from being classified as employees.

“That is the bigger problem here,” said Jim Newton, a historian and lecturer on public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written biographies of the governors Earl Warren and Jerry Brown.

“It’s not whether Gavin Newsom gets 51 percent or we have Gov. Larry Elder. That’s important, but the general premise that the initiative referendum and recall are intended to curb the influence of powerful special interests has been tipped entirely on its head and it has now become the tool of special interests.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law expert and the dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, argued that the state’s recall process is unconstitutional because the two-step nature of the process — with voters deciding whether to recall the sitting governor and then, separately, choosing a replacement — makes it possible for a new governor to take office with less popular support than the old one.

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When Will Californians Know Who Won the Recall?

Californians have been voting early for weeks in the election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

But it is unclear how long it will take to get a definitive answer on whether he will keep his job.

Depending on the number of early ballots and the amount of in-person voting on Tuesday, the math could be clear within a few hours of when the polls close at 8 p.m. Pacific time, election experts say. But if the race is tighter than expected, weeks could pass while the counting drags on.

Recall attempts are a fact of political life for governors of California. But they do not usually make it onto the ballot, and Californians have gone to the polls only one other time to determine whether the state’s top officeholder should be ousted. That was in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, the state’s voting rules and electorate have changed substantially.

Because of the safety concerns around the coronavirus pandemic, ballots were mailed early to all of the state’s 22 million or so registered and active voters in the 2020 election. Voters can return their completed ballots by mail, deposit them in secure drop boxes, vote early in person or vote at a polling place on Tuesday.

tamper with their ballots. Studies following the 2020 election found that the system worked smoothly, with no systemic voter fraud.

Early Democratic ballots have outnumbered Republican ones by a 2-to-1 margin, with overwhelming majorities of voters in both parties telling pollsters they plan to vote along party lines. Mr. Newsom is a Democrat, as is about 46 percent of the electorate.

But that margin is expected to tighten as Republican voters — who represent fewer than a quarter of registered voters — head to the polls.

Vote counts are notoriously slow in California because the state is so massive. The law for this election allows county officials to open and process early ballots as they come in, but those results cannot be shared with the public until the polls close, said Jenna Dresner, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state’s office.

California has 58 counties, and each processes its ballots differently. Results often land later in larger counties, such as Los Angeles County. Officials have 30 days to complete their official canvass and must give vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on Election Day a week to arrive. The certified count is not expected until Oct. 22.

overall turnout hits 60 percent, he said, the proposed ouster of Mr. Newsom is almost mathematically impossible.

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The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — Mohamedou Ould Slahi is almost clinical as he recalls details of the torture he endured in the summer of 2003 at Guantánamo Bay.

There were the guards who menaced him with attack dogs and beat him so badly they broke his ribs. The troops who shackled him, blasted him with heavy metal music and strobe lights or drenched him in ice water to deny him sleep for months on end. The mind-numbing isolation in a darkened cell without his Quran. The female guards who exposed themselves and touched him sexually in an effort to undermine his adherence to Islam.

But what left Mr. Slahi in utter despair, he said, was the interrogator who tried to threaten him into acknowledging that he was complicit in plotting a terrorist attack.

“If you don’t admit to it, we are going to kidnap your mother, rape her,” the interrogator said, by Mr. Slahi’s account.

released in 2016 without ever being charged, the confessions he made under duress recanted, a proposed case against him deemed by the prosecutor to be worthless in court because of the brutality of the interrogation.

“I was very naïve, and I didn’t understand how America works,” Mr. Slahi said.

For the United States, as for Mr. Slahi, the legacy of the torture remains complex and multifaceted two decades after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led the George W. Bush administration to set aside legal and moral constraints in the name of national security.

The United States has long since stopped employing the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used in what studies have concluded was a fruitless or counterproductive effort to extract lifesaving information from detainees in secret C.I.A. prisons and at Guantánamo Bay.

meeting with President Biden in June, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reminded journalists that Guantánamo remained open and that the C.I.A. had carried out torture in secret foreign prisons. “Is that human rights?” he asked.

Guantánamo Diary,” was released in a film version, “The Mauritanian.” While he is often denied visas for travel, he recently made a trip to London, where he took part in a literary reading and was hosted at a party by Kevin Macdonald, the director of the movie.

A software engineer, Mr. Slahi has two phones, a laptop and Wi-Fi in the home he built since his release. Isolated for long stretches during his imprisonment, he carries on multiple conversations across the world these days through texts, video chats and phone calls.

On one level, his is a hopeful story.

“I wholeheartedly forgive everyone who wronged me during my detention,” he said in a YouTube message to the world soon after his release. “I forgive, because forgiveness is my inexhaustible resource.”

But the effects of what he endured at Guantánamo are by no means behind him.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time. The United States also sent 119 people into the C.I.A.’s overseas network of secret prisons — including the accused plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks — where detainees were routinely sleep deprived, shackled in excruciating ways and subjected to rectal abuse and other brutal treatment.

executive summary of the report was made public in 2014, but the full report remains classified.)

Mr. Slahi’s story — laid out in interviews, testimony and congressional investigations — spans much of the 20 years in which the United States has variously obscured, acknowledged and dealt with the diplomatic and human fallout of the interrogation programs authorized by Mr. Bush and his team.

Mr. Slahi was a clever, curious son in a Bedouin family of 12 children who became the first in his family to study abroad. While working toward an engineering degree in Germany in the 1990s, he traveled to Afghanistan to train in the anti-Communist jihad at a time when the United States endorsed it. He was back in his native Mauritania on Sept. 11, 2001.

Intelligence analysts sifting through records after the attacks noted that he had received a call in late 1998 or early 1999 from a satellite phone used by Osama bin Laden. The call was about a family matter and came from a cousin who had been part of bin Laden’s inner circle and later fled to Mauritania, Mr. Slahi said.

U.S. intelligence had also come to believe that Mr. Slahi had hosted three Muslim men in his home in Duisburg, Germany, for a night in November 1999. Among them were two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is accused of recruiting the so-called Hamburg cell of hijackers and is charged in a death-penalty case at Guantánamo. Mr. Slahi dismissed the encounter as so casual — a matter of offering hospitality to fellow Muslim travelers — that he said he did not remember the suspect named Ramzi when interrogators pressed him on it.

Investigators also noticed that Mr. Slahi had moved to Montreal in the winter of 1999 and prayed at the same mosque as Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian known as the millennium bomber for a failed plot to plant a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve in 1999. Mr. Slahi was questioned by federal security forces in Canada and left for home after two months.

Steve Wood of Oregon, wrote the Obama administration’s interagency parole board that he considered Mr. Slahi so safe he would gladly host him in his home.

U.S. forces delivered Mr. Slahi to Mauritania just as he had been brought to Guantánamo: blindfolded and in shackles.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom C.I.A. contractors waterboarded 183 times at a secret prison in Poland.

The war court at Guantánamo, run by the U.S. military, is meant to balance the need for secrecy with the rights of the accused.

To the frustration of families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack, the crimes of Sept. 11 have been rarely mentioned in nearly a decade of proceedings.

Rather, defense lawyers have effectively managed to put the C.I.A. on trial as they have systematically sought to exclude evidence against the men — notably confessions they made months into their stays at Guantánamo — as a product of torture.

The lawyers for one defendant, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who sits gingerly on a pillow in court because of pain from rectal abuse in C.I.A. custody, argue that the case should be dismissed outright because of outrageous government conduct.

In an effort to speed up the proceedings — and perhaps to protect the identities of certain C.I.A. employees — prosecutors have begun acknowledging that the United States tortured its captives in overseas prisons. They do not use the word, but they have read aloud in court from grisly descriptions of abuse to try to argue that defense lawyers have sufficient details to try to move either for dismissal of the charges or to exclude the death penalty if the defendants are convicted.

Prosecutors said in 2018 that they would stipulate to “anything tethered to reality” to avoid the national security struggle over declassifying certain details of what went on in the secret sites.

recent book “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free.”

“This is not the way a civilized colony, or later the United States as a whole, conducts itself,” he said. “I do think that fundamental legal qua moral approach was what was undercut in the wake of 9/11 by what happened in Guantánamo.”

The judge’s courthouse is a few blocks from ground zero. “What is still seared in my memory is watching people jump out of the windows of the World Trade Center towers because the alternative is being burned to death inside,” he said in an interview. “One can never forget the atrocity of that attack. But it is also exactly when atrocities occur that the rule of law is put to the test.”

Only a handful of the men who were subject to the treatment approved by the Bush administration have been released and spoken publicly about the experience, with Mr. Slahi being prominent among them.

“I only have the law,” he said last month. “And if the law fails me, I’m done. There is nothing else left for me.”

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Barred From Flying Over Mask Dispute, Lawmaker Asks to Be Excused From Senate

An Alaska lawmaker has asked to be excused from legislative sessions until next year, saying she has no way to fly to the state capital after she was barred from Alaska Airlines for violating mask policies.

The lawmaker, Lora Reinbold, a Republican state senator, was captured on video in April arguing with employees at Juneau International Airport about mask rules.

After the confrontation, Alaska Airlines said it had notified Ms. Reinbold that she was “not permitted to fly with us for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy.”

Ms. Reinbold had previously complained about Alaska Airlines on Facebook, saying it was “part of mask tyranny.”

scolded by Alaska’s governor, Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, who accused her of spreading misinformation about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and of having “abdicated the tenets of your oath as a public servant.”

Speaking on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Thursday, Ms. Reinbold asked that she be excused from Senate business from Sept. 11 through Jan. 15 “because there’s no airline other than Alaska Airlines that flies into Juneau during that period that I’m aware of.”

“The political ban is still in place as long as Biden’s illegitimate mask mandate is in place on private and public transportation,” she told her colleagues.

The Republican-led Senate accepted her request without objection and indicated that she would be shown as “excused on those dates.”

Ms. Reinbold represents Eagle River, Alaska. If she cannot fly, a trip from her district to Juneau, the state capital, could require her to travel more than 19 hours by car and ferry, and to cross over the Canadian border.

wrote on Facebook.

If the only major airline offering flights to Juneau “can unconstitutionally impede a legislators ability to get to the Capital in a safe and timely fashion,” she added, “it could undermine our representative republic.”

Last month, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it was extending the requirement that travelers in the United States wear masks at airports, on airplanes, and on commuter buses and trains through Jan. 18.

Mask mandates have become a major flash point on airplanes, contributing to a surge in unruly and sometimes violent behavior from passengers who refuse to comply.

double fines for travelers who refused to wear masks in airports and on commercial airplanes. The minimum penalty for first-time offenders was raised to $500. Second-time mask refusers may be fined as much as $3,000.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay — and by the way, show some respect,” Mr. Biden said.

In the video that was posted on Twitter in April, Ms. Reinbold is seen at the airport in Juneau, wearing a mask but arguing with employees about it.

“We need you to pull the mask up, or I’m not going to let you on the flight,” an employee tells Ms. Reinbold.

“It is up,” Ms. Reinbold responds.

“It is not,” the employee says. “It’s down below your nose. We can’t have it down.”

It was not clear if Ms. Reinbold had been permitted on the flight. One of the videos shows her leaving the boarding area.

In March, Ms. Reinbold said on Facebook that she had been asked to leave a committee hearing because she was not wearing an approved face shield. After that, Ms. Reinbold was barred from the State Capitol until she complied with health and safety protocols. She later returned to the Capitol in a clear face mask.

Ms. Reinbold wrote in March.

She did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

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20 Years After 9/11, Top National Security Posts Sit Empty

Not only has that not happened, Senate logjams and partisan battles over nominees have gotten worse. It now takes nearly four months for a presidential nominee to be confirmed, compared with half that time in the Reagan era. More than 200 Biden nominees are languishing in “confirmation purgatory,” some of them for months, Mr. Stier said.

The problems started in January, when, amid a surge in domestic terrorism, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, slowed confirmation of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, saying he had questions about his stance on immigration. At the time, Michael Chertoff, a homeland security secretary during the George W. Bush administration, called the slow-walking “irresponsible and unconscionable,” saying it could “put the lives of Americans in jeopardy.”

This spring, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, slowed the confirmation of three Department of Homeland Security nominees — the deputy secretary, the under secretary for strategy, policy and plans and the general counsel — seeking greater administration attention on the U.S. border with Mexico. The deputy secretary, John K. Tien, has been on the job for less than two months, and Robert Silvers, the under secretary for strategy, for less than a month.

In August, the Senate left for its monthlong summer break with nearly 30 State Department nominees in limbo. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is blocking their confirmation votes while demanding that Mr. Biden impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany. Among the nominees that Mr. Cruz has bottled up is Brett M. Holmgren, who was nominated in March as assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.

But it is not only Republicans slowing the process.

Democrats grouse that liberal members of their party balk at nominees with corporate backgrounds, making acceptable appointees harder to find. Moderate Democrats have also raised objections about some nominees.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden withdrew his nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joined Republicans in objecting to Mr. Chipman’s past statements supporting some gun control.

Jamie S. Gorelick, who served on the 9/11 Commission, called the Senate’s approach “lackadaisical” and “dangerous.” During the Clinton administration, Ms. Gorelick was the Pentagon’s general counsel, and later the deputy attorney general. Then too, “it was hand-to-hand combat getting individual assistant secretaries and the like confirmed,” she said.

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