WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package now awaiting President Biden‘s signature, marking the first measure to address the pandemic that made its way through Congress entirely along party lines.
House Democrats cleared the legislation by a 220-211 vote on Wednesday, after the Senate passed it in a 50-49 vote on Saturday.
Republicans lined up in opposition against the legislation by arguing it is overly partisan and filled with unnecessary provisions that wouldn’t help defeat the pandemic.
“This should be a targeted relief bill, but instead, this is an attempt by Speaker Pelosi to further promote her socialist agenda,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
By contrast, past pandemic relief measures enacted last year after protracted negotiations between the Democratic-House, GOP Senate and the Trump administration passed with bipartisan support. But now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, they opted to craft a relief measure without GOP input.
“If you are a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I believe the American public wants something different. I believe they were proud of the fact we did something here that was bipartisan.”
Polling shows that the legislation is broadly popular with voters, particularly the expanded tax credits and $1,400 stimulus checks.
But the support dropped sharply among Republicans in both surveys, while Democrats and independents largely favored the legislation.
Only one centrist Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), defected from his party during Wednesday’s vote.
Golden said he believed the Senate went too far in some areas to scale back the bill, specifically the unemployment insurance payments and minimum wage increase, while not going far enough in other areas such as the stimulus checks.
“While the Senate made modest changes to the legislation, some of those changes undermined parts of the bill I do support, and others were insufficient to address my concerns with the overall size and scope of the bill,” Golden said.
Republicans sought a variety of amendments to the bill in the House and Senate, including requiring K-12 schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction in order to access funding and eliminating $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts that’s intended to help arts organizations that have faced layoffs and budget cuts during the pandemic.
Senate Republicans briefly secured the adoption of an amendment with the support of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to keep the weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payments at $300, rather than increasing them to $400 as under the original House bill.
WASHINGTON (Newsmax)– The House of Representatives canceled its planned Thursday session after the Capitol Police warned on Wednesday of a possible plot by a militia group to breach the building, an threat that echoed the deadly Jan. 6 attack.
The House had been scheduled to debate and vote on a police reform bill on Thursday. But a House Democratic aide said that the police warning, based on intelligence that “an identified militia group” could present a security threat, contributed to the change in plans.
Authorities have said right-wing extremists were part of a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump that stormed the Capitol in January, interrupting the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Thursday marks the date when some right-wing conspiracy theorists have falsely claimed that Trump, defeated by Biden in the Nov. 3 election, will be sworn in for a second term in office.
The Justice Department has charged more than 300 people with taking part in the Capitol siege, in which five people, including a police officer were killed. Among those arrested were members of the right-wing groups called the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and Proud Boys. The Oath Keepers and Three Percenters are armed militia groups.
“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” it said in its statement.
It said it is working with local, state and federal agencies “to stop any threats to the Capitol,” adding, “We are taking the intelligence seriously.” It did not disclose the nature of the intelligence.
The police statement noted that the department already has made “significant security upgrades” at the Capitol, home to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
The Senate had been aiming to debate Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19-relief bill on Thursday. There was no immediate response from Senate leadership officials on whether its Thursday session also would be suspended.
On Tuesday, Acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett notified members of Congress of a possible security threat spanning Thursday through Saturday. It referred to “potential protests and demonstration activity surrounding what some have described as the ‘true Inauguration Day.'”
For nearly a century, U.S. presidents have been inaugurated on Jan. 20, including Biden, who took the oath of office on the grounds of the Capitol. Previously, March 4 had been the swearing-in date.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman testified to Congress on Feb. 25 that Trump supporters who launched the Jan. 6 attack have indicated they want to “blow up” the building and kill members of Congress.
Since Jan. 6, National Guard troops have been dispatched to the Capitol grounds and tall fencing has been erected to extend the security perimeter of the Capitol. Blodgett told lawmakers that the Capitol Police department has “enhanced” its security posture for the coming days.
Congress has held a series of hearings on the riot and congressional leaders in the coming days are expected to receive recommendations for new, permanent security measures at the Capitol.
The House impeached Trump on Jan. 13 on a charge of inciting an insurrection, focusing on an incendiary speech he made to supporters shortly before the mob converged on the Capitol, though the Senate acquitted him on Feb. 13.
WASHINGTON– Democrats reacted strongly Friday to President Donald Trump’s proposal to ship detained migrants to “sanctuary cities.”
“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump tweeted Friday. “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visibly shaken by the news, slammed the president Friday afternoon when asked by reporters for comment.
“I don’t know anything about it, but again, it’s just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a county, as a people, to address who we are: a nation of immigrants,” Pelosi said.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was also quick to attack the president’s plan.
“If it’s true, it is very unfortunate and to be condemned,” Hoyer said of the reports. “That you could use ICE — or any other federal agency — to penalize or to visit retribution for political reasons, that’s not the act of a democratic government.”
Trump’s announcement comes just one day after a Washington Post report claimed the president had once before suggested such an effort only to have it shot down by ICE officials as a would-be public relations nightmare.
Trump campaigned heavily on border security during his 2016 presidential campaign, an issue that is certain to carry over to his 2020 bid for reelection.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claimed yet another victory Tuesday as the House failed to override his efforts to declare a national emergency on the nation’s border.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House voted 248-181 in favor of overturning his veto, 38 votes shy of the number needed for the required two-thirds majority.
“Keeping our nation secure should be the president’s very highest priority. With President Trump, there is no question he has and will continue to carry out this priority,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said during floor debate prior to the vote. “He has very clearly laid out the case for a declaration for a national emergency. There is a crisis at the border.”
Border security, a central focus of the president’s 2016 campaign, has been a long fought effort throughout Trump’s two and a half year presidency.
The vote clears the path for the president to shift budget funds. By declaring his now successful national emergency the president intends to allocate $3.6 billion that was originally allotted for military construction projects toward border security. Congress voted this year to limit spending on such border security efforts to less than $1.4 billion.
Despite the president’s victory, Democrats were quick to point out the near miss.
“The President’s lawless emergency declaration clearly violates the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, and Congress will work through the appropriations and defense authorization processes to terminate this dangerous action and restore our constitutional system of balance of powers,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said in a joint statement. “We will continue to review all options to protect our Constitution and our Democracy from the President’s assault.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday said he’s “not worried about it at all” about news that former attorney Michael Cohen will testify before Congress.
Cohen, who was sentenced last month to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating “hush money” payments to two of the president’s former lovers in violation of campaign finance laws, is scheduled to testify next month before a Democratic-led House Oversight and Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Cohen is expected to face tough questioning by Democrats about the payments he now says he arranged on Trump’s behalf to keep details about the president’s extramarital affair allegations from being revealed during the 2016 presidential election.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Trump said when asked about Cohen’s planned testimony during a trip Thursday to visit border patrol agents in Texas.
Cohen’s agreement to testify against Trump was central to a plea deal he arranged with prosecutors last year.
In a statement released Thursday by his attorney Lanny Davis, Cohen said:
“In furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers, I have accepted the invitation by Chairman Elijah Cummings to appear publicly on February 7th before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”
Last week the House of Representatives and it’s related committees came under the control of the new Democratic majority, which has vowed to use its powers to investigate Donald Trump and his administration.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration on Sunday announced plans to help states pay to train teachers in the use of firearms in response to a series of deadly shootings in U.S. schools.
The plan does not yet incorporate the president’s earlier pledge to raise the age limit for purchasing certain firearms from 18 to 21 but does include the option to allow trained teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus as a means of protecting students from armed intruders.
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could end the attack very quickly,” Trump said last month during a bipartisan meeting on gun control.
To help jumpstart the effort, Trump has directed the Justice Department to aid states in partnering with local law enforcement to provide “rigorous firearms training to specifically qualified volunteer school personnel,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council.
Reiterating its call to improve background check systems and for states to pass temporary, court-issued Risk Protection Orders that would allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals who pose risks to themselves and others and temporarily prevent them from buying firearms, the White House described the effort as a promise kept by the president to help keep America’s children safe and to help “harden” schools from violence. The move comes in response to a February 14 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida in which 17 victims were killed and dozens more were injured.
“Today we are announcing meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who will chair a commission to oversee the project.
“Far too often, the focus” after such shootings “has been only on the most contentious fights, the things that have divided people and sent them into their entrenched corners,” said DeVos during a call with reporters on Sunday evening.
During the call, DeVos also announced the White House’s urging for Congress to pass a second bill that would create a federal grant program to help train students, teachers, and school officials on how to identify early warning signs of potential violence and focus on early intervention.
While Republican lawmakers were quick to praise the president’s efforts, Democrats condemned the plan, saying the changes simply weren’t enough to ensure safety in America’s schools.
Calling the plan “weak on security” Sen. Bob Casey, (D)-Pa., referred to the proposal as “an insult to the victims of gun violence.”
“When it comes to keeping our families safe, it’s clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are all talk and no action,” Casey said in a released statement.
The House is expected to vote on the STOP School Violence Act sometime next week.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Republicans on Thursday narrowly passed their beleaguered health care bill by a 217-213 vote not six weeks after a similar bill was defeated for lack of support.
The revised American Health Care Act heads next to the Senate where, if approved, it will replace the Affordable Care Act put into law by the previous Obama administration.
In the end, 20 Republicans voted against the bill, as did all Democrats on record Thursday afternoon. As voting came to an end, House Democrats broke out into a chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”, but Republicans eventually got their way.
Upon hearing the news of the vote, President Trump invited Republican lawmakers to the White House for a celebratory press conference.
“Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who credited “the determination, the perseverance and the leadership of Donald Trump” for the passage of the bill.
“What a great group of people, and they’re not even doing it for the party, they’re doing it for the country,” president Trump said as he stood with fellow Republicans in the Rose Garden. “Yes, premiums will be coming down, deductibles will be coming down.”
As Republicans cheered, the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbying group was more aloof in their response to the House’s passage of the bill.
“Ensuring patients have access to the medicines they need is our top priority. As Congress considers reforms to our health care system, we look forward to continuing to work with them to enhance the competitive market, ensure patients have access to affordable health care and foster the continued development of new innovative medicines,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, said in a statement.
Democrats, however, were quick to berate the Republicans’ triumph.
“The “health care” bill that Republicans passed today is an absolute disaster,” former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted after the announcement of the bill’s passage.
“Here are the white men who just made domestic violence, sexual assault, C-sections and postpartum depression pre-existing conditions. #AHCA,” tweeted Amy Siskind, President and Co-Founder of The New Agenda, an advocacy group for women’s and LGBTQ rights.
“This disastrous bill has been condemned by almost everyone,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday during a press conference after the vote. Pelosi said latest version is “worse” than the original and scoffed at claims that it would protect those with pre-existing conditions.
“This is a scar that they will carry,” she said of those who voted yes to pass the bill.
But Republicans seemed unfettered by their Democratic colleagues’ bitter response.
“We want to brag about the plan,” Trump said during the post-vote celebration. “Hey, I’m president!”
The bill effectively eliminates tax penalties put into place by ObamaCare, and removes tax increases that higher income earners health industries were hit with under the Affordable Care Act. The bill also allows states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.
If passed into law, the bill will also retain the ObamaCare mandate that family policies cover grown children until the age of 26.
Critics say states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements and, with waivers, insurers could charge people with pre-existing illnesses at higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they determine to be fair and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services such as obstetrics and mental health care.
The bill would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a period of at least 12 months, a fact that is considered in and of itself a victory by many pro-life Republicans.