It’s Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Election Day is 91 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
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Stimulus talks continue with little progress
Negotiators from the Trump administration will return to Capitol Hill today to meet with Democratic congressional leaders as negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package continue for yet another day.
Even after millions of Americans were placed in economic peril when $600-a-week unemployment benefits and a federal moratorium on evictions expired on Friday, the two sides remain miles apart on legislation to renew those provisions.
Democrats are pushing for the $3 trillion plan passed by the House in May, which would fully extend the unemployment benefits and also fund a flurry of other line items: more than $9 billion in aid to state and local governments, $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $25 billion to boost the Postal Service, among others.
Republicans, meanwhile, have proposed a $1 trillion package that would cut weekly unemployment checks from $600 to $200, and then design a system in which unemployed workers are provided 70 percent of the wages they were earning before being laid off.
“We want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid, and we want to make sure there’s the right incentives” to continue working, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi countered earlier in the show: “The $600 is essential. It’s essential for America’s working families.”
The GOP plan would offer no direct aid to states and cities — a major sticking point between the two parties — while allocating $16 billion for COVID-19 testing and tracing, about $105 billion for reopening schools and colleges, and (perhaps most controversially) about $1.7 billion for a new FBI headquarters, a top priority for President Donadl Trump.
Both proposals would provide another round of direct payments to Americans, providing $1,200 stimulus checks for indivudals earning up to $75,000, or $2,400 for married couples earning up to $150,000.
According to Politico Playbook, “the two sides have not resolved a single issue” — meaning agreement has not been found on a single one of those policy differences, days into the negotiations.
President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has pledged to continue the talks and return to the Hill “every day until we reach an agreement,” but the president himself has only complicated matters.
As the New York Times reported this morning, Trump has remained largely absent from the negotiations and instead stuck to “sniping from the sidelines in ways that undercut a potential compromise.” He has repeatedly denigrated Democratic leaders at the same time his own aides have been meeting with them, while also repeatedly pushing for a payroll tax cut that even congressional Republicans have rejected.
Trump raised the possibility on Monday that he would move to eliminate payroll taxes by executive action, which he does not have the power to do. “I’ll do it myself if I have to,” he said. The president also suggested that he could unilterally halt evictions, with millions of renters in jeopardy now that the federal moratirum has lapsed.
The Senate is scheduled to leave for August recess at the end of the week, but the chamber may remain in Washington if the stimulus talks drag on without any consensus.
The top news stories you need to know.
Voters in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington head to the polls for congressional primaries. Top races to watch:
- Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall compete for the Republican nomination to suceed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. Many Republicans fear that nominating Kobach, a controversial conservative figure who lost the state’s gubernatorial election in 2018, could cede the seat to likely Democratic nominee Barbara Bollier.
- Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a member of the progressive “Squad” in the House, faces a Democratic primary challenge from Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones. The race is a rematch from 2018, when Jones beat Tlaib in a special election for the seat on the same day Tlaib beat Jones in the regular election. Jones held the House seat for about a month before Tlaib was sworn in.
- Ferguson activist Cori Bush is attempting to unseat Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay, a 10-term Democratic lawmaker whose father preceded him in the House. Bush is hoping to channel the same energy as other progressive challengers who have seen success since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018, although Clay’s seniority and family ties offer him sizable sway in the district.
“I don’t know,” President Trump said when asked about the recently deceased civil rights icon John Lewis’ legacy in an Axios interview that aired Monday on HBO. In his answer, Trump focused on Lewis’ decision not attend his 2017 inauguration, declining to say whether he found the longtime congressman to be impressive. The interview (which can be watched below) included a number of contentious exchanges, including Trump disputing statistics about coroanvirus in the United States and saying “it is what it is” when told thousands of Americans continue to die from the pandemic.
The U.S. Census Bureau will end its nationwide count on September 30, a month earlier than previously planned, the agency’s director said Monday. “Only 63% of the nation’s estimated 121 million households have responded to the 2020 census by mail or phone or online,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “The last-minute change to the timeline raises concerns about the accuracy of the count, which is used to determine representation in Congress and state legislatures.”
A federal judge ruled Monday that about 1,000 disputed ballots in a closely contested Democratic congressional primary in New York must be counted. “The judge’s decision is the latest twist in a race that has been used by the president to cast doubts on the efficacy of vote-by-mail systems nationwide, even as he trails in polls in his bid for re-election,” the New York Times reported.
- Related: “Why the Botched N.Y.C. Primary Has Become the November Nightmare” (NYT)
What’s going on in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
President Donald Trump will participate in a signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act at 10:30 a.m., have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:45 p.m., and receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m.
- Yesterday: Trump signed two executive orders, on requiring agencies to give American citizens preference when hiring federal contractors and improving rural health and telehealth access, and held a 37-minute press conference.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 12 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and vote at 11:30 a.m. to confirm Mark Wesley Menezes as Deputy Secretary of Energy. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.
- Yesterday: The Senate advanced Menezes’ nomination in a 78-14 vote.
The House will convene at 11 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will meet at 3:30 p.m. for another negotiating session. Meadows and Mnuchin will also attend the weekly Senate GOP lunch and meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- Yesterday: The foursome emerged from their meeting after making little headway on a stimulus package.
The Supreme Court is on summer recess.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no public events scheduled.
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