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Another 2.8 million jobs could be lost if an unemployment provision in the coronavirus relief bill is not renewed, according to a new report from Congress.

The report, from the Joint Economic Committee, warned that unless a federal supplement to unemployment benefits is extended past its July 31 expiration date, "as many as 2.8 million jobs" could be lost, increasing the unemployment rate "by as much as 1.8 percent."


The report, titled "Cutting off Additional Unemployment Benefits While Millions are Unemployed Would be a Human and Economic Catastrophe," was released Thursday by the bipartisan, bicameral committee, which is responsible for tracking the economy and suggesting ways to improve it.

It estimated that in April, federal pandemic unemployment compensation, which provides $600 per week in additional federal funds to tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans, "offset roughly 30 percent of the loss in private-sector wages and salaries" during the COVID-19 crisis.

The program was part of the coronavirus relief bill passed in March, which approved $2.3 trillion in funds to stabilize the economy. Democrats in Congress are pushing to extend the program past its current expiration date in July.

Last month, the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill that would extend Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation through the end of January 2021.

Many Republicans, however, have said they want to let the program end. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month that the bille was "dead on arrival" and vowed that to fight an extension of the benefits. On Thursday, dozens of House Republicans signed a letter demanding the program be allowed to expire. They argued that the benefits are too generous and would harlm "employers' ability to incentivize employees to return to the workplace."

The joint committee report, however, suggested that this concern was "misplaced," and that economic research shows little indication that this is a major problem.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who serves as vice chair of the joint ommittee, said Friday that newly released unemployment numbers for May show that the program is vital.

Noting that "more than 20 million Americans remain unemployed," he said in a press release that it is "critical that we continue Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and the Paycheck Protection Program, and get state and local governments the support they need. Workers and businesses need to know that we are all in this together and that we will provide them with support for as long as the economy remains weak."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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