What to Know in Washington: House Moderates Plan Stimulus Bill

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A 50-member group of House Democrats and Republicans will release a $1.52 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan today in a long-shot attempt to break a months-long deadlock on providing relief to the pandemic-battered U.S. economy.

The Problem Solvers Caucus plan, to be announced at an 11 a.m. news conference, has been developed for weeks with the knowledge of the White House and leadership from both parties, according to House aides. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has referred to the discussions and at a House hearing this month hinted the White House could accept a $1.5 trillion level of spending.

Nonetheless, the track record of bipartisan groupings of moderates in either the House or Senate to broker major deals has not been great.

The caucus proposal offers key compromises on the two thorniest issues in the stalled talks between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration. On aid to state and local governments, the group is backing about $500 billion, splitting the difference between the $915 billion sought by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and the $150 billion put forward by the White House.

On the issue of supplemental unemployment insurance, the group is backing $450 per week for eight weeks and then applies a formula for benefits capping them at 100% of previous wages or $600 per week, whichever is lower. Democrats want $600 per week while the White House, citing concerns that such an amount is a disincentive for work, has sought $300 per week. In addition, the proposal would provide another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments for most Americans with a $500 per child benefit.

The “March to Common Ground” framework, developed by Caucus co-chairs Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) also contains money for Covid-19 testing, schools, childcare, and small business relief. It would also link relief to economic metrics, reducing aid if the pandemic abates or extending it if it worsens. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Pelosi at the Capitol on Monday.

Pressure from New Dems: A coalition of more than 100 House Democrats is also calling on House leadership to not leave for a planned October recess until action is taken on a Covid-19 stimulus package, Emily Wilkins reports. New Democratic Coalition Chair Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said on a press call yesterday that members’ constituents are hurting and there is “a real sense of urgency to keep fighting to solve these problems.”

Members of the coalition stressed they are supportive of Pelosi. Last month, the coalition asked Pelosi in a letter to allow legislation to extend supplemental unemployment insurance to come to the floor. It didn’t happen, but Republicans have since used the letter to argue Democrats support targeted relief.

“We don’t want a bad deal, we don’t want a meager deal,” Kilmer said. “But we think there is value in having the House act so folks who are hurting get the help that they need and know that we are continuing to fight for them.”

Also Happening on the Hill

Panel to Mark Up Student Borrowers Bill: A White House executive order last month extended a reprieve on student loan payments after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on another coronavirus aid package. Now, House lawmakers want to advance longer-term protections for struggling students. The House Judiciary Committee later today will mark up a bill permitting student borrowers with federal or private loans the option to cancel their debt bankruptcy, Andrew Kreighbaum reports.

  • House Democrats also plan votes this week on two bills that aim to address school segregation. One bill up for a vote today would authorize grants for schools to support diversity efforts like student bussing. For more on that measure, read the BGOV Bill Summary by Danielle Parnass.
  • The other, set for a vote later in the week, would allow individuals to file lawsuits over disparate impact under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Trump administration yesterday in a statement of administration policy said it would recommend the president veto the latter. For more on the bill, read the BGOV Bill Summary by Danielle Parnass.

CFIUS Urged to Reject Oracle-TikTok Deal: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which oversees foreign investments with U.S. national security implications, “should promptly reject any Oracle-ByteDance collaboration and send the ball back to ByteDance’s court so that the company can come up with a more acceptable solution.” Oracle edged out rival Microsoft in negotiations for the U.S. operations of TikTok. Hawley said it’s “far from clear what this arrangement entails.” Megan Howard has more.

  • Meanwhile, the U.S. said working for TikTok won’t be illegal under an executive order by President Donald Trump that will prohibit Americans from transactions with the social-media network and its Chinese parent. The Commerce Department doesn’t intend to outlaw payment of wages or salaries for TikTok employees in the U.S., interfere with their benefit packages or impose civil or criminal liability, the Justice Department said yesterday. The department will specify by Sept. 20 which transactions with TikTok and parent ByteDance are to be prohibited in the U.S. Read more from Edvard Pettersson.

Halt on Fetal Tissue Research Said Improper: The Trump administration is blocking federally funded fetal tissue research over ideology and not science, two Democrats said, and called on HHS’s Azar to halt those efforts. The White House has hindered research for more than a year on treatments to diseases including Covid-19, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions ranking Democrat Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. Read more from Vivek Shankar.

Elections & Politics

Harris Sends ‘Game On’ Signal to Donors: Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) arrival on the Democratic presidential ticket has helped prompt an historic outpouring of contributions, bringing in women donors, Californians and others who avoided donating to the Biden campaign until they saw his running-mate pick. The pace and magnitude of the mostly virtual fundraising for the Biden-Harris ticket far eclipse what she accomplished during her own presidential run last year and has thrust her into a highly visible role among small-dollar and big-dollar donors, starting with the Democratic bastions in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

Harris was named Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate on Aug. 11. That month, the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee set a record for monthly campaign fundraising with an intake of $364.5 million. Some $48 million alone came in the first two days after Biden announced Harris’s selection. Read more from Jeffrey Taylor and Bill Allison.

Biden’s Staff Becomes More Diverse: The Biden campaign has become more diverse as it’s hired more staff in recent weeks, with nearly half of its employees identifying as people of color. Biden’s full-time staff is now 46% people of color, up from 35% when the campaign last disclosed data in June. Biden’s campaign remains majority female, with 59% of staff saying they’re women, up from 53% 11 weeks ago. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

City Fines Company That Hosted Indoor Trump Rally: The Nevada company that allowed Trump to hold an indoor campaign rally with few masks and little social distancing faces fines for violating Covid-19 safety regulations. The city of Henderson warned Xtreme Manufacturing that the event must comply with state orders to keep gatherings under 50 people, to require facial coverings and to practice social distancing. Read more from Brenna Goth.

Barr Floats Foreign Mail-Vote Fraud: Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly floated a conspiracy theory that other countries may distribute counterfeit mail-in ballots to sway the November election. That’s virtually impossible, according to election officials, ballot-printing companies and political scientists. Yet it’s a persistent argument from Barr, and it echoes Russian claims designed to undermine trust in the U.S. presidential election. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith and Mark Niquette.

  • Colorado to Track Mail-In Ballots Online: Colorado will allow voters to track the status of their mail-in ballots online, joining a growing list of states to offer the amenity. Voters will be able to receive notifications by phone, email or text about the status of their mail ballots, from the moment their county clerk and recorder mails the outgoing ballot packet to when their ballot is received and accepted for counting, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced yesterday. Read more from Tripp Baltz.

Wisconsin Top Court Blocks Green Party Candidate: Wisconsin’s highest court ruled it’s too late to add the Green Party candidate for president to the November election ballot, which has already been sent to many voters. The Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday said changing the ballot now to add the names of candidate Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, could result in a “substantial possibility of confusion” among voters who’ve already received or even returned the original ballots. Read more from Erik Larson and Amanda Albright.

GOP Jockeying to Oust Carney in Delaware: Delaware Republicans will decide today whether to put a political unknown up against the incumbent governor, a Democrat. The party-endorsed candidate, lawyer Julianne Murray (R), faces five other hopefuls in the primary, where a nominee will be chosen to face Gov. John Carney. Win or lose, Murray will still be opposing the governor in a court battle over the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Read more from Andrea Vittorio.

Sprint to Election Day Begins—BGOV Podcast: Bloomberg Government’s Kyle Trygstad and Greg Giroux discuss the state of play of congressional elections on the latest episode of Downballot Counts. With two months to go, Democrats are seeing positive polling numbers in Senate races and in the presidential election, positioning the party to gain total political power in Washington. But with some races likely to be close and Trump’s 2016 win still in their minds, the party isn’t overconfident about its chances.

Tune into to the latest episode of Downballot Counts here, and subscribe from your mobile device via: Apple Podcasts | Overcast | Stitcher | Spotify

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Trump Health Official Under Fire for Tweets: The Trump administration’s top health spokesman appears to have deleted his Twitter account after a late-night rant in which he suggested tear-gassing journalists and tangled with other users on the site. Michael Caputo, in tweets from his verified personal account, said to “gas all of them” in commenting on a tweet from a self-described journalist who had posted a video saying they were about to be tear-gassed. In another tweet, Caputo described another user with an epithet for a feminine hygiene product, adding “you have four followers.”

In recent days, Caputo became the center of controversy over the White House’s attempt to influence scientific study of the Covid-19 pandemic. Politico reported that Caputo was involved in trying to manipulate medical reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over fears they may harm Trump politically. Read more from Drew Armstrong.

USDA Boss’s Home State Got Most Trade Aid Per Farmer: Farmers in U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s home state of Georgia received the highest average payments last year under Trump’s trade aid program, the Government Accountability Office found in a report released yesterday. Senate Democrats said the findings confirm their long-standing complaints that Trump’s $28 billion trade aid program was unfair to family farmers in the Midwest because farms in the South got higher average payments and a large portion of aid went to bigger farms. Read more from Mike Dorning.

Vaccine Trial on Hold: AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine trial remains on hold in the U.S. as regulators examine a serious side effect suffered by a U.K. patient, Reuters reported yesterday. The drug company and its partner, Oxford University, restarted the U.K. trials of the vaccine on Saturday after it was halted on Sept. 6. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still conducting its own probe. Read more from Timothy Arnett.

Pandemic Seen Accelerating Automation: The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to permanently replace some humans with machines, according to a new study yesterday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Layoffs have been higher among workers in sectors that can be automated, which increases the risk those jobs will become permanently obsolete, according to the study by economists Lei Ding and Julieth Saenz Molina. And at the same time, the spread of Covid-19 has accelerated automation in industries that have been hit hard by the illness or that don’t permit remote work. Read more from Olivia Rockeman.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Sees Foreign Policy Win in Israel Deal: Trump will be center stage as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sign accords establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, an achievement the president’s supporters say merits the Nobel Peace Prize and his detractors claim is mostly illusory. The UAE and Bahrain will become just the third and fourth Mideast nations to formally recognize Israel at a White House ceremony on Tuesday that the president sees as vindication of his peacemaking skills after decades of failed efforts by his predecessors in both parties.

“The people of the region are tired of conflict,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., said in a text message. “The accord is good for the region but also for the U.S.”

Although there are parallels to accords that brought diplomatic recognition to Israel by Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in 1994, today’s agreements signal something new: official recognition of the long-standing informal ties between Gulf nations and Israel. They also represent a regional move away from letting the fate of the Palestinian territories dictate ties with Israel. Read more from Nick Wadhams and Jordan Fabian.

Trump Spurns Push on Biofuel Waivers: The Environmental Protection Agency said it won’t retroactively exempt small oil refiners from biofuel blending rules, a victory for ethanol producers as Trump attempts to shore up support in the U.S. Corn Belt. The EPA said yesterday it would deny “gap-filling” petitions. Refineries didn’t provide information that would compel a change for the compliance years in question, the agency said. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Kim Chipman, and Ari Natter.

Effort to End Protected Status Upheld by Court: A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit lifted a temporary injunction blocking Trump administration efforts to terminate temporary protected status for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The lower court abused its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction when it found that the plaintiffs’ Administrative Procedure Act claim was reviewable, and further erred in its finding that plaintiffs presented “at least serious questions going to the merits of their” Equal Protection claim, U.S. Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan wrote for the 2-1 panel. Read more from Genevieve Douglas.

U.S. Warns Citizens Against Hong Kong Travel: The State Department updated its travel advisory on Hong Kong based on China’s implementation of a national security law widely seen as eroding freedom in the once-autonomous city. “Since the imposition of national security legislation on July 1, the PRC unilaterally and arbitrarily exercises policy and security power in Hong Kong,” the State Department said on its website yesterday, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “U.S. citizens are strongly cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and avoid demonstrations.” Read more.

With assistance from Emily Wilkins

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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