- The Senate is waiting for the House of Representatives to finish up details on an economic relief bill that would provide support to millions of Americans affected by the coronavirus.
- The House passed that bill early Saturday morning, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are reportedly working to make “technical corrections.”
- While there has been plans for the House to unanimously pass the bill before the corrections were finished, a lone representative has objected, keeping that bill in the House until it is done.
- There were also conflicting reports about Democrats and Republicans trying to sneak abortion legislation into the bill, though it is unknown how much truth is behind those reports.
When Will the Senate Vote on a Coronavirus Bill?
Texas Representative Louie Gohmert is insisting on reading a series of “technical corrections” made to a bill poised to provide economic relief to Americans affected by the coronavirus. In short, that could keep the bill out of the Senate even longer.
At around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed that bill 360-40 in a bipartisan effort.
Further details of the bill, which was designed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are still being hashed out by Pelosi and Mnuchin. This is because there are reportedly “major differences” between the White House and Democrats over what gets adopted and what needs to be changed.
Still, the Senate, which announced last week that it would be canceling its scheduled recess, is expected to vote on the bill soon.
“Senators on both sides are carefully reviewing the details and are eager to act swiftly to help American workers, families, and small businesses navigate this challenging time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
However, that process is now snagged with Gohmert’s hold up.
“We still do not have a final draft of the negotiated changes being called ‘technical corrections’ and some of us believe that the newly worded laws should be finished before we pass them,” Gohmert said on Twitter.
Essentially, the House would have voted to pass the corrections before they were finalized, but it would have needed unanimous consent. With Gohmert’s objection, that means a vote will have to wait until he’s read the changes.
Once in the Senate, one of the big questions regarding the bill is if senators will pass it in one go. While lawmakers will no doubt try to expedite the legislation as swiftly as possible, there is a fair chance that the Senate will amend some of the bill’s provisions and send it back to the House.
“Most of the measures in this bill are something that the senators will support, I believe,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on Fox & Friends. “But we worry that the bill setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit that won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off.”
What’s in the Bill?
The bill, which was supported by President Donald Trump, provides a series of measures including sick leave, free testing, boosted unemployment insurance, and food programs for children, the elderly, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.
Notably, it does not include Trump’s original plan of payroll tax cuts; however, that’s not necessarily off the table. Both Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have indicated that there will likely be more relief measures. It’s possible payroll tax cuts could end up being put in those.
“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump said in a series of Tweets supporting the bill nonetheless. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST. Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
….the health and well-being of American families FIRST. Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2020
The bill has received some criticism for its policies around sick leave.
As it stands, it would ensure that employers provide 14 days of paid sick leave at 100% of a person’s pay, as well as up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at no less than 67% of a person’s normal pay.
The caveat, however, is that it does not include all workers and pertains mainly to businesses with less than 500 employees.
The bill makes no mention of large companies with more than 500 employees, largely because both Pelosi and Mnuchin said they didn’t want to give those companies taxpayer subsidies.
“U.S. taxpayer money subsidizing corporations to provide benefits to workers that they should already be providing,” Pelosi said on Twitter.
On Sunday, Mnuchin echoed her thoughts by saying “big companies can afford these things.”
That means employees of those businesses have to rely on company policy, and different companies do things differently. Just because they can pay for it doesn’t mean they will, and that has been a major argument driving the criticism around this measure.
For example, Uber is offering two weeks of paid sick leave, but it is unclear how that will be calculated. Olive Garden is also offering sick leave to its hourly employees, but it’s only giving them 40 hours, which is notably less than what other companies will need to grant under this House bill.
Was Abortion Legislation Wrapped Up in the House Bill?
The House bill also reportedly hit another snag as Pelosi and Mnuchin were trying to reach a deal before its introduction.
Oddly enough, the debate was seemingly over abortion.
On Thursday, conservative news outlet the Daily Caller reported that “Pelosi sought to include a potential way to guarantee federal funding for abortion into the coronavirus economic stimulus plan, according to multiple senior White House officials.”
However, Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez painted a much different story.
“Right now, we are hearing that some of the fights and some of the gridlock is because people are trying to put pro-life provisions into this,” she told Brett Baier on Fox News.
Obviously, those are two very different testimonies, and as Snopes puts it, since the specifics of those negotiations are unknown, it’s hard to “untangle these competing narratives.”
However, “The hold-up appeared to have concerned the inclusion — or lack of inclusion — of what is known as Hyde Amendment language.”
The Hyde Amendment prohibits the federal government from funding abortions except in rare cases.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (CNN) (Snopes)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.