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Schumer Bill Would Keep Trump’s Name Off Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On orders from the U.S. Treasury Department, President Donald Trump's name is appearing on millions of $1200 relief checks that Americans are receiving as part of the $2.2 trillion package signed into law in March in response to the coronavirus crisis. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is vehemently opposed to Trump's name appearing on those checks —and Politico's Marianne Levine is reporting that the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate is planning to introduce legislation that would keep the president's name off future coronavirus relief checks.

Levine reports that Schumer's proposal, which is being called the No PR Act, "would prohibit the use of federal dollars toward any material that promotes the names or signatures of Trump or Vice President Mike Pence."

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How Chuck And Nancy Made Moscow Mitch Gag On The Stimulus Bill

One thing we're learning, in our collective sorrow, is how many mayors and governors of both parties there are across America who are infinitely more capable of responding to a crisis than anybody in the White House. New York's Andrew Cuomo, Ohio's Mike DeWine and others have earned justifiable praise for effective leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, although you'd hardly know it due to the relative dearth of press coverage, emergency benefits extended to ordinary citizens by Congress last week could mean economic salvation for millions.

Also largely unknown to the public is that their underappreciated champion has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—pointedly excluded from the White House bill signing ceremony along with every other Democrat in Washington.

Such are the political facts of life in a nation under siege.

With TV news networks and their star performers focusing upon Rose Garden theatrics, they've neglected the story of how Pelosi and Chuck Schumer outwitted and outmaneuvered GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to where he felt compelled to admit that "because the country was desperate for results…I literally told my own Republican colleagues to 'gag and vote for it.'"

The final Senate vote was 96-0. That's a lot of gagging.

Unlike the original Republican bill with its proposed $500 billion in corporate bailouts, the $2.2 trillion Pelosi-Schumer effort—formally known as the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,"—added $150 billion for hard-pressed state and local governments, another $150 billion for hospitals, and $31 billion for schools. That and $25 billion for Food Stamps.

To be sure, there's still plenty of cash for Fortune 500 companies, but oversight has been added to prevent its becoming a political slush fund.

However, the real game-changers for hard-pressed families as well as the potential salvation of the US economy are two features many voters are unaware of: paycheck-protection loans enabling small businesses to retain employees for up to eight weeks, and that needn't be repaid; also greatly expanded unemployment insurance for individuals who lose their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The original McConnell bill called for one-time $1200 checks to be sent to every taxpayer—definitely useful, but hardly a bonanza. To that, Pelosi and Democrats added unemployment insurance providing an additional 13 weeks of cash assistance to state-funded programs. The CARE Act also expands eligibility to include part-time, self-employed and so-called "gig economy" workers such as Uber drivers and food delivery services, providing up to $600 a week income for those practicing social distancing.

Do the arithmetic. That's upwards of $10,000 between now and the end of June. With plenty to worry about, people can at least quit obsessing about money. They'll have sufficient funds for rent, food, utilities and other necessities. Nobody's got to risk his or her life to keep the children fed.

(Or pets, for that matter. Around our house there would be hell to pay if Martin and Albert, our two orange tabby rodent consultants, ever glimpsed the porcelain bottom of what we call "the endless supper dish.")

And the best news for the economy is that most of this cash would be spent immediately and locally, bolstering enterprises that need it to keep going. So next time you hear some bloviating politico attack the "do-nothing" Democrats, you can thank Nancy and Chuck.

Of course unemployment insurance is administered by the states, many of which impose burdensome regulations required by skinflint legislators ever-fearful that lazy people will take advantage. (Not that we haven't all known somebody who's tried.) But these are special circumstances, and this is where the aforementioned state governors come in. Times aren't normal: it's their collective duty to clear the hurdles and let the money flow.

Anyway, how this all happened is that Pelosi and Schumer pretty much ran a good-cop/bad-cop number on Mitch McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who did the negotiating for the Republicans. Or as the Speaker later explained, "we did jiu-jitsu on it, that it went from a corporate-first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a Democratic workers-first legislation."

McConnell's a vastly overrated legislative strategist to begin with—mainly good at saying no. When he presented a my-way-or-the-highway trillion dollar package in late March, Democrats shocked him by voting no on a procedural issue. Needing 60 votes to pass, the chamber deadlocked at 48-48.

Republicans threw a big hissy fit. "Is that what we've come to?" ever-melodramatic Maine Sen. Susan Collins asked. "We don't have another day. We don't have another hour. We don't have another minute to delay acting."

OK, fine. So do you want to negotiate with Chuck or Nancy? Good cop or bad cop? McConnell went into hiding. Mnuchin basically gave Sen. Schumer most of what he wanted. Possibly because it was good policy. But certainly because nobody wanted to tangle with Speaker Pelosi, who's smarter and tougher than them all.

Senate And White House Agree On $2 Trillion Emergency Stimulus Bill

The Senate leadership of both parties reached a deal early on Wednesday morning with the Trump administration for $2 trillion in stimulus legislation designed to shield American workers and businesses from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Passage of the bill is expected to proceed swiftly in both the House and the Senate, with President Trump poised to sign when it reaches his desk.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced the deal on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., following many meetings on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and various White House officials.

The emergency assistance bill is the largest of its kind ever passed. Among its provisions, the bill directs the government to make payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children within coming weeks. It sets up a $500 billion aid program for businesses, cities and states, as well as a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. And it will deliver an unprecedented increase in unemployment insurance as well as $130 billion in direct grants to hospitals.

“We’re going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us,” said Schumer, “and help carry millions of Americans through these dark economic times.” Mnuchin said he was “pleased” with the stimulus package and promised that the president will “absolutely, absolutely, absolutely” sign the bill. The Senate discussions included constant consultation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wbo had publicly expressed optimism in the hours before the deal was reached.

Intense negotiations focused on the $500 billion loan program to private firms, local and state governments, which includes $58 billion for passenger and cargo airlines. Trump provoked suspicion when he said earlier that he wants a substantial subsidy for hotels — such as properties owned by the Trump organization — and vowed that he “would be the oversight” to prevent fraud and waste.

But in response to vigorous objections from Democrats, White House officials agreed to establish independent monitoring of the stimulus loan program by an oversight board and an inspector general, according to the Washington Post.

Pelosi Battling Trump And McConnell Over Pandemic Relief Legislation

Top Republican leaders — from Donald Trump to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — are dismissing a bill from congressional Democrats that would provide economic security to workers most impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, saying they don’t want to rush a response.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill this week that would give workers 14 days of paid sick leave (the number of days someone with COVID-19 or those suspected to have it must remain in quarantine), as well as provide food security to low-income families that rely on food stamps or free school lunch. It would also make testing for the virus free.

But Trump and McConnell are dismissing the bill, with Trump saying it’s full of “goodies” and McConnell saying offering free testing and economic security for vulnerable communities is “not related to the pressing issues at hand.”

“There are things in there that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “So you know, it’s not a way for them to get some of the goodies that they haven’t been able to get for the last 25 years.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said similarly that Republicans want to take their time with any response — even as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to grow and the economy slows. The stock market has continued to plummet as well.

“We are committing to get this right,” McCarthy said Thursday at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “We’re working with the White House, with Secretary Mnuchin, and with the speaker. We should not just take a rush just because there’s a bill. We want to make sure it works in the process of where we’re going.”

Additionally, a White House official told the Washington Post on Thursday that it opposes covering coronavirus testing for the uninsured. The White House reportedly believes that reimbursing laboratory claims would lead to federal funding for abortion, though it’s unclear on what they are basing that conclusion.

The comments come after Trump himself taunted Pelosi, attacking her for tempering expectations for how quickly legislation can pass to help those impacted by office and school closures, as well as event cancellations that cause hourly workers and those without paid leave to miss out on pay.

“Nancy Pelosi just said, ‘I don’t know if we can be ready this week.’ In other words, it’s off to vacation for the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “That’s been the story with them for 1 1/2 years!”

Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had initially told reporters that Senate Republicans won’t even begin to take action on a coronavirus response bill until after the chamber returns from a planned recess. Senators weren’t scheduled to be back from that recess until March 23.

Given how fast the virus can spread, it’s unclear what the situation in the United States may look like in 11 days.

In Italy, for example, the virus is spreading at a rapid clip, despite drastic lockdown measures to stop it.

The country saw its number of cases double from roughly 2,500 on March 4 to 5,800 on March 7, the New York Times reported. The death toll also soared, jumping from 36 to 233, according to the Times.

McConnell, however, announced Thursday afternoon that the Senate would cancel the planned recess to negotiate on a bill, though it’s unclear when a vote will take place.

“Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week,” he tweeted. “I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.