- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin submitted a $916 billion White House COVID-19 relief proposal Tuesday that trades $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for a one-time $600 payout to Americans.
- Top Democrats swiftly rejected the proposal as “unacceptable.” Meanwhile, top Republicans have suggested a willingness to accept the deal.
- Without Democratic support, the White House proposal is likely dead on arrival.
- That means the last hope for Americans to receive some form of stimulus relief before the end of the year rests with a $908 billion bipartisan proposal, which has not yet been finalized.
- The lack of a deal comes as eviction moratoriums are set to expire on Jan. 1, potentially resulting in millions of Americans losing their homes amid the pandemic and during winter.
One Time Payment VS. Additional Unemployment Benefits
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed a $916 billion COVID-19 relief package on Tuesday that would swap $300 weekly unemployment benefits for a one-time $600 payout to Americans.
The deal would also give Americans $600 per child, but by largely not incorporating weekly unemployment benefits, it chops unemployment spending to $40 billion as opposed to the $180 billion that has been proposed in a bipartisan relief bill totaling $908 billion.
Top Democrats quickly denounced the White House-backed package. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Ca.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) described it as “unacceptable” in a joint statement.
“The president’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan congressional talks that are underway,” they said.
Top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Ca.) have reportedly been much more receptive to Mnuchin’s proposal.
“It’s a very good offer,” McCarthy told reporters. “It focuses on the things that need to be there.”
While the final details of the bipartisan $908 billion plan have still yet to be published, it does include a provision that guarantees an additional $300 a week in expanded unemployment benefits. It also currently includes provisions for $288 billion in loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and other similar programs, $25 billion in housing assistance, $160 billion for state and local governments, and short-term federal protections for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
What’s not included? The one-time, direct payments.
In March, the government sent Americans $1,200 through the CARES Act.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the $908 billion bipartisan bill for not including the direct payments. In fact, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would vote against any relief bill that doesn’t include a direct payment.
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said Tuesday that he doesn’t understand why other lawmakers are “pretty dug in on the idea of not including checks.”
“I see them saying things like, ‘This is an emergency relief bill,’” he added. “I don’t know what’s more of an emergency than working people and families who are having to get into food lines… I don’t understand that logic at all.”
Where Does McConnell Stand?
While Pelosi and Schumer have both agreed to that bipartisan $908 billion package as a basis for negotiations, McConnell has refused to embrace it.
In fact, Tuesday was the first time that McConnell has offered any real concessions in months. That happened when McConnell offered to drop two controversial provisions that have left Democrats and Republicans at odds and stalled a final package.
The first involves passing liability protections for businesses that reopen during the pandemic. Republicans have argued that such a provision is necessary to protect small businesses from lawsuits; however, Democrats have rejected that idea, arguing that protections would potentially allow employers to endanger their employees.
The second involves Democrats’ demand that the federal government allocate funding for state and local governments. Some Republicans have labeled this provision a “blue-state bailout,” arguing that the federal government shouldn’t swoop in to save states with bad budgeting.
McCarthy said Tuesday that a final bill should include either both of these provisions or neither. Mnuchin’s proposal, as well as the $908 billion bipartisan plan, includes both provisions.
“We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” McConnell said Tuesday before Mnuchin’s proposal went public. “What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”
Democrats have largely written off that concession. In fact, Schumer argued the state and local government funding proposal has had much more bipartisan support than the business liability provision.
With Democrats also refusing to budge by giving up the provision to provide additional unemployment benefits, it seems like this White House proposal is likely dead on arrival.
That means the last hope for government relief before the end of the rests on the bipartisan $908 billion stimulus bill, but the problem is that it still hasn’t been finalized.
It was originally thought that the bill might be published Monday. When that didn’t come, many believed it would come Tuesday, but as of now, it’s still being negotiated.
The delay comes as the House voted Wednesday to stave off a scheduled government shutdown from this Friday to next week. Amid COVID-19 relief, Congress is also trying to negotiate a massive funding bill for the new fiscal year.
Eviction Moratoriums Up On Jan. 1
Time is running out, and it is unclear how McConnell will respond to the bipartisan bill once it’s finalized.
Tens of millions of people are still out of work. Eviction moratoriums are scheduled to expire at the end of this month. According to Moody’s Analytics, on average, about 12 million Americans are nearly $6,000 behind on payments. Some estimates even report that as many as 20 million tenets are at risk of eviction.
While President-elect Joe Biden has promised to sign executive orders extending eviction moratoriums and even advocated for rent forgiveness on the campaign trail, he doesn’t take office until Jan. 20.
Some states like California have moratoriums past Jan. 1 and have now introduced proposals to extend their moratoriums even further. Along with some other states, it has also instituted grace periods for tenets to pay back rent.
Even if that 20 million number ends up being much more conservative in reality, it could still mean millions of people facing eviction filings at the beginning of next month.
“The economic damage created by this pandemic will be many times more severe if we lose faith that the government has our back,” Moody Chief Economist, Mark Zandi, told The Washington Post. “The reality on the ground is going to be very dark, with people losing homes in the dead of winter during a pandemic.”
According to an August analysis by the centrist think tank Urban Institute, another round of stimulus checks could keep up to 6.3 million people out of poverty.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (CNN)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
More Republican Are Pushing COVID Vaccinations, But the Party Remains Divided on Its Messaging
The renewed effort to encourage vaccination comes as the surge in COVID cases caused by the delta variant continues to disproportionately impact Republican-led states with low vaccination rates.
GOP Leaders Ramps Up Vaccination Push
In recent days, more Republican leaders and prominent conservatives have ramped up efforts to encourage members of their party to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the U.S. continues to see massive surges from the delta variant.
Some, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have been pushing Americans to get vaccinated for months — a call he reiterated again on Tuesday. Many others, however, have been reticent to do the same until recently.
Most notable on that list is Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the no. 2 Republican in House leadership, who just got his first dose over the weekend after resisting vaccination, claiming he had antibodies from previously contracting COVID. Scalise explained he changed his mind because of delta and encouraged others to do the same.
“There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective,” he said.
The top leader is set to continue pushing that advice. Earlier this week, the GOP Doctors Caucus announced that it would hold a news conference Thursday alongside Scalise and the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), to encourage vaccination.
Rank and File Republicans Continue To Cast Doubt, Spread Misinformation
There are still plenty of Republicans working to undermine the renewed push to get their party vaccinated.
While many have painted vaccination as a matter of freedom of choice, others have sought to downplay the virus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state currently accounts for 40% of all new COVID cases, dismissed the spikes as the result of a “seasonal virus” on Monday.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk — who has had COVID twice — echoed that in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, where he argued that COVID is just something everyone has to live with.
“This is something we deal with in our lives on a daily basis; ever since I’ve been born, there’s sicknesses, there’s flu, there’s different diseases,” he said.
Some members of the GOP have used their positions of power to actively fight against vaccination. That includes Sen. Ron Johnson (Wi.), who has openly said he is not vaccinated. He has also been widely condemned for promoting unproven treatments and false information about vaccines during interviews and congressional hearings.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly refused to share her vaccination status, has also drawn ire for sharing misinformation and continually comparing COVID prevention efforts to the Holocaust.
Greene was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week for sharing false information on Monday, but she continued to utilize her spotlight to spread misinformation about vaccine-related deaths and side effects during a press conference the following day.
While those who downplay the coronavirus and spread false information about vaccinations are certainly not representative of the entire Republican Party, they are some of the most visible.
Greene and many of her counterparts who push anti-vaccine narratives have frequently been accused of acting in inflammatory ways to get more press — a strategy that more often than not tends to work in their favor.
As a result, Republicans who want to encourage people to get the jabs will have their work cut out for them. Even many of those who have not openly expressed skepticism themselves have still let it flourish in the party for so long by not publicly pushing back against claims from members who sow disinformation.
The GOP’s broader failure to unify around a singular message on vaccines shows clearly among the party’s base.
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News, poll 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot, but just 45% of Republicans have done the same. While just 6% of Democrats say they are not likely to get the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they probably will not, and 38% said they definitely will not.
Meanwhile, Republican-led states with low vaccination rates are suffering the most from the new spike in cases and the rapid spread of the delta variant.
Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 35%, is currently reporting the highest per-capita cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations have gone up 85% in the state in the last two weeks, placing some hospital systems on the brink of collapse — a problem also faced by parts of Missouri, which has the third-highest COVID cases nationwide.