WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The top negotiators fighting for a deal on emergency coronavirus relief spoke again on Wednesday as they face increasingly dismal odds to secure an agreement before Election Day.
The hourlong phone call between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was a “productive” one, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, citing a focused effort to find “clarification on language” — a reference to assurances sought by Democrats that new funding allocated by Congress will be spent on intended programs.
But a deal remains a long shot, as Democrats have held firm to their $2.2 trillion demand; Senate Republicans have balked at even the $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House; and President Trump has confused the debate with a stream of mixed messages regarding what he supports.
“One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill tweeted. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”
Speaking at a public conference shortly after his call with Pelosi, Mnuchin noted the distinct divisions blocking a deal, emphasizing entrenched differences remain over both the amount of new spending and the policy areas it should target.
“I don’t agree with the Speaker’s approach that we have to do all or nothing,” Mnuchin said in an interview with the Milken Institute. He added that securing and executing a deal before the elections “would be difficult just given where we are and the level of detail.”
Another area of disagreement is how much aid should be extended to state and local governments, which are struggling to fund the emergency response to the pandemic while simultaneously being squeezed by a loss of tax revenue.
Democrats had proposed $436 billion in aid for those localities, while the White House countered with $300 billion. Mnuchin on Wednesday said that number marked “an extraordinary compromise” on the part of the administration, suggesting the White House is not ready to raise its offer.
Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said Democrats are also wary of how the state and local funds are allocated. He accused Republicans of manipulating the language in earlier rounds of emergency relief to ensure that red states benefited disproportionately.
“This is one place where the details matter a lot,” Foster said on a press call. “A small town in Wyoming or Montana got, I think, five times more money than a small town in Illinois.”
Another sticking point surrounds GOP demands for language protecting businesses and schools from liability if workers or students contract the virus — a demand Mnuchin amplified Wednesday.
Democrats are insisting that those liability protections be excluded, and appear equally unyielding in that demand.
“I think that it should be a dealbreaker for us to leave it in there,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “We have to make sure that there is some accountability for safety of workers. And right now, that’s now where they are.”
The persistent disagreements have diminished the chances that the sides can reach a deal before the elections. And Trump, who has remained on the sidelines during the talks, has only muddled the debate.
The Hill’s Mike Lillis contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after leaked footage showed the Democrat leader getting her hair done in a salon despite California mandates ordering they remain closed.
The footage, obtained by Fox News, shows Pelosi getting a wash and blowout at a San Francisco hair salon on Monday. Salons in the Golden State have been ordered closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The footage also shows Pelosi walking about the facility wearing no mask.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi is being decimated for having a beauty parlor opened, when all others are closed, and for not wearing a Mask – despite constantly lecturing everyone else,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “We will almost certainly take back the House, and send Nancy packing!”
“The Beauty Parlor owner must really dislike Crazy Nancy Pelosi,” the president wrote in a follow up tweet. “Turning her in, on tape, is a really big deal. She probably treats him like she treats everyone else…And she strongly supported a Kennedy who just lost in, of all places, Massachusetts!”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Pelosi claimed the liberal lawmaker followed all rules during her appointment.
“The Speaker always wears a mask and complies with local COVID requirements,” Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff for Pelosi, told Fox News affiliate KTVU in San Francisco. “This business offered for the Speaker to come in on Monday and told her they were allowed by the city to have one customer at a time in the business. The Speaker complied with the rules as presented to her by this establishment.”
However, the salon’s owner says that’s untrue and called being forced to open the salon for Pelosi a “slap in the face.”
Salon owner Erica Kious, in a phone interview with Fox News, said she was “shocked” when an independent stylist working for her who rent chairs in her salon told her that Pelosi was coming in for a blowout.
“One of the stylists who rents a chair from me contacted me Sunday night,” Kious said.
“I was like, are you kidding me right now? Do I let this happen? What do I do?” Kious told Fox News, while noting that she “can’t control” what her stylists do if they rent chairs from her.”
“It was a slap in the face that she went in, you know, that she feels that she can just go and get her stuff done while no one else can go in, and I can’t work,” Kious said, adding that she “can’t believe” the speaker didn’t have a mask on.
“We’re supposed to look up to this woman, right?” Kious said. “It is just disturbing.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump insisted “good things” were underway on the next COVID-19 aid package Monday as he met with Republican congressional leaders, but new divisions between the Senate GOP and the White House posed fresh challenges as the crisis worsened and emergency relief was soon expiring.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been prepared to roll out the $1 trillion package in a matter of days. But the administration criticized more virus testing money and interjected other priorities that could complicate quick passage.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said as the meeting got underway.
But the president acknowledged the “big flare up” of rising caseloads and deaths in the states. “Unfortunately, this is something that’s very tough,” he said.
Lawmakers were returning to a Capitol still off-limits to tourists, another sign of the nation’s difficulty containing the coronavirus. Rather than easing, the pandemic’s devastating cycle is rising again, leaving Congress little choice but to engineer another costly rescue. Businesses are shutting down again, many schools will not fully reopen and jobs are disappearing, all while federal aid will soon expire.
Without a successful federal strategy, lawmakers are trying to draft one.
“We have to end this virus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday on MSNBC.
Pelosi said any attempt by the White House to block money for testing “goes beyond ignorance.”
The political stakes are high for both parties before the November election, and even more so for the nation, which now has registered more coronavirus infections and a higher death count of 140,500 than any other country.
McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy huddled with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Mnuchin vowed passage by month’s end, as earlier benefits expire, and said he expected the fresh $1 trillion jolt of business tax breaks and other aid would have a “big impact” on the struggling economy.
Mnuchin said he’s preparing to start talks with Democrats. He and Meadows were headed to the Hill later to brief lawmakers.
“We can’t pass the bill in the Senate without the Democrats and we’re going to talk to them as well,” McConnell agreed.
The package from McConnell had been quietly crafted behind closed doors for weeks and was expected to include $75 billion to help schools reopen, reduced unemployment benefits and a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans, and a sweeping five-year liability shield against coronavirus lawsuits.
But as the administration was panning some $25 billion in proposed new funds for testing and tracing, said one Republican familiar with the discussions. Trump was also reviving his push for a payroll tax break, which was being seriously considered, said another Republican. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks.
Trump insisted again Sunday that the virus would “disappear,” but the president’s view did not at all match projections from the leading health professionals straining to halt the alarming U.S. caseload and death toll.
“It’s not going to magically disappear,” said a somber McConnell, R-Ky., last week during a visit to a hospital in his home state to thank front-line workers.
McConnell also faces divisions from some in his ranks who oppose more spending, and he is straining to keep the package at $1 trillion.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer warned Monday his side will block any effort from McConnell that falls short.
“We will stand together again if we must,” Schumer said in a letter to colleagues.
The New York Democrat is reviving his strategy from the last virus aid bill that forced Republicans to the negotiating table after McConnell’s original bill was opposed by Democrats. This time, the House has already approved Pelosi’s sweeping $3 trillion effort, giving Democrats momentum heading into negotiations.
Trump raised alarms on Capitol Hill when he suggested last month at a rally in Oklahoma that he wanted to slow virus testing. Some of Trump’s GOP allies wanted new money to help test and track the virus to contain its spread. Senate Democrats were investigating why the Trump administration had not yet spent some of $25 billion previously allocated.
The payroll tax break Trump wanted also divided his party because it historically has been used used to fund Social Security and Medicare. Cutting it only adds to the nation’s rising debt load at a time when conservatives are wary of any new spending. Some Republicans also see it as an insufficient response to millions of out-of-work Americans.
This would be the fifth virus aid package, after the $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, the largest U.S. intervention of its kind.
While many GOP hoped the virus would ease and economy rebound, it’s become clear more aid is needed as the first round of relief is running out.
A federal $600-a-week boost to regular unemployment benefits would expire at the end of the month. So, too, would the federal ban on evictions from millions of rental units.
With 17 straight weeks of unemployment claims topping 1 million — usually about 200,000 — many households are facing a cash crunch and losing employer-backed health insurance.
Despite flickers of an economic upswing as states eased stay-at-home orders in May and June, the jobless rate remained at double digits, higher than it ever was in the last decade’s Great Recession.
Pelosi’s bill, approved in May, includes $75 billion for testing and tracing to try to get a handle on the virus spread, funnels $100 billion to schools to safely reopen and calls for $1 trillion to be sent to cash-strapped states to pay essential workers and prevent layoffs. The measure would give cash stipends to Americans, and bolster rental and mortgage and other safety net protections.
In the two months since Pelosi’s bill passed, the U.S. had 50,000 more deaths and 2 million more infections.
“If we don’t invest the money now, it will be much worse,” Pelosi said.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Andrew Taylor contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for the immediate removal of 11 Confederate statues from the United States Capitol on the grounds that their presence promotes “barbarism.”
In a letter to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, and Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, who head a congressional panel responsible for the handling of Capitol displays, Pelosi said the statues represent “cruelty.”
“The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi wrote in the letter sent Wednesday. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.”
In a statement issued in response, Lofgren wrote that she supported Pelosi’s efforts to remove the statues.
“Indeed, what the Confederate statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection represent is anathema to who we are as a Congress and a country,” Lofgren said. “I agree that the Joint Committee and Architect of the Capitol should expediently remove these symbols of cruelty and bigotry from the halls of the Capitol. I stand ready, and call on the Chair of the Joint Committee to swiftly approve the removal of these statues. The Capitol building belongs to the American people and cannot serve as a place of honor for the hatred and racism that tears at the fabric of our nation, the very poison that these statues embody.”
As of press time, Blunt had not yet issued a response.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a resolution to outline the next phase of their impeachment inquiry that will bring their case before the public after weeks of closed-door witness testimony.
The resolution, unveiled by House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), sets up procedures for open hearings by the Intelligence Committee and releasing witness testimony.
It also allows Republicans to request witness testimony and documents, similar to previous impeachment inquiries. But Democrats on the Intelligence panel still have the ability to block the requests.
The resolution is expected to hit the House floor on Thursday.
The leaders of the committees involved in the impeachment process — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and acting Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) — said that the resolution will prepare lawmakers for the next stage of the inquiry.
“The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election. Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct,” they said in a joint statement.
The resolution further outlines the format for the upcoming public hearings, which will provide for extended time for questioning and allow committee staff to cross-examine witnesses. Only House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), or committee employees are allowed to ask questions.
That would be a departure from the typical format of congressional hearings, in which members of each party alternate with five minutes of questioning.
The format is similar to how lawmakers on the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry have been conducting the depositions behind closed doors in a secure facility in the sub-basement of the Capitol for the past month.
Republicans would have to provide “detailed written justification” to suggest subpoenas or request witness testimony. But Democrats have veto power to block Republicans’ requests with a party-line committee vote.
The resolution also directs the House Intelligence Committee to issue a report on its findings and recommendations.
The resolution further outlines the process for transferring materials to the House Judiciary Committee, which would be tasked with formally drafting and approving articles of impeachment.
The Judiciary Committee would be authorized to “promulgate additional procedures as it deems necessary for the fair and efficient conduct of committee hearings.”
The resolution is not meant to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry that is already ongoing, as Republicans and the White House had been demanding for weeks. But it does state that the relevant committees involved in investigating the Trump administration “are directed to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.”
WASHINGTON– House Republican Tom McClintock of California on Thursday urged Democrats to move forward in their efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.
Speaking to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee Thursday, McClintock mocked the Democrats threats to impeach the president and issued a “double-dog dare” to them to proceed.
McClintock’s comments came in response to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, (D)-New York’s, opening statement in which he called for a vote to impeach.
“The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power,” said Nadler.
“If the majority wants to exercise the House’s power of impeachment, all you got to do is ask the House to do so,” McClintock responded. “All you have to do is ask the House that it direct and authorize this committee to conduct an impeachment inquiry. That’s all you have to do.”
“Resolve that the House authorizes the Judiciary Committee to conduct an inquiry into the impeachment of the president. It’s that simple,” McClintock continued. “I dare you to do it. In fact, I double-dog dare you to do it. Have the House vote on those 18 words and then go at it. Why won’t you do that?”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D)-Calif, who has been previously shied away from calls for impeachment told Fox News Thursday that she now supports Nadler’s efforts.
“Yes, I do,” said Pelosi. “I think you should characterize it for what it is, it’s a continuation of what we have been doing,” she said. “You know we all work together on these things.”
However, Pelosi did admit she worries that calls to impeach Trump may not fare well with middle of the road voters. “I think this is bad politics for Democrats,” she said, adding she feels that many Americans have a “general fatigue” with demands for impeachment.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to prevent the release of the unredacted Mueller report, sparking outrage from Democrats.
The move was seen as a direct challenge by House Democrats as they gathered to vote on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over the document.
Last month Barr released a redacted, 448-page version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, but has since refused to honor a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee to release the unredacted version and its contained evidence. Mueller’s 22-month long investigation looked into whether or not President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian officials to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The report essentially cleared the president of all wrongdoing.
“Every single day the president is making the case. He’s becoming self-impeachable,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The Washington Post, referring to his efforts to restrict release of the unredacted report an “obstruction of justice.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler responded to Trump’s move to block the report’s release as a “clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” adding that neither Barr nor Trump are “above the law.”
“I can only conclude that the president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States of America,” Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee said in response to the White House’s announcement.
Meanwhile, Republicans have steadfastly defended Attorney General Barr in the wake of recent attacks by the left, referring calls to have him arrested as just an escalation of an ongoing “witch hunt.”
“What a cynical, mean-spirited, counterproductive and irresponsible step it is,” said Judiciary Committee leader Doug Collins.
Representative Matt Gaetz concurred with Collins’ comments, calling the latest efforts by Democrats “all about impeachment” of Trump and not about justice.
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.