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White House bans travel from Brazil by non-U.S. citizens

President Trump on Sunday announced he was suspending travel into the United States for non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, a new coronavirus hot spot, as top administration officials warned Americans that they aren’t out of the woods in the fight against the pandemic. The Brazil announcement followed similar restrictions on travel from…

White House bans travel from Brazil by non-U.S. citizens

President Trump on Sunday announced he was suspending travel into the United States for non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, a new coronavirus hot spot, as top administration officials warned Americans that they aren’t out of the woods in the fight against the pandemic.

The Brazil announcement followed similar restrictions on travel from China, Iran and the United Kingdom as Mr. Trump looks to stem an increase in cases in the U.S.

“Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

The president made the announcement as Americans hit the road and flocked to beaches over the Memorial Day weekend, stoking fears in some quarters of a potential resurgence of cases.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the U.S. coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday that it’s an open question on whether the country will need to shut down again if COVID-19 cases spike in the coming months.

“It’s difficult to tell, and I really am data-driven, so I’m collecting data right now about whether governors and whether states and whether communities are able to open safely,” Dr. Birx said on ABC’s “This Week.”

She said officials will be learning more through May, June and July and are preparing for a potential resurgence in the fall.

“I think we’re trying to learn right now very carefully about how you reopen safely. We act like we’ve actually done this before,” she said.

With images of crowded beaches and pools over the holiday weekend, she said she is concerned when people don’t maintain proper social distancing.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that measures such as social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing “protect us all.”

“With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained,” Dr. Hahn said in a Twitter message. “It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community.”

All 50 states have moved to relax restrictions as trends on COVID-19 cases and deaths improve in many spots.

Mr. Trump, who has been itching for the country to reopen, also cheered positive trends Sunday as he hit the links at his private golf club in Virginia for the second straight day.

“Cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the Country!” he said on Twitter.

Mr. Trump suggested last week that economic lockdowns won’t return even in the event of another wave of COVID-19 cases.

The U.S. has had more than 1.6 million cases and more than 97,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

“We’re going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country,” the president said. “Whether it’s an ember or a flame, we’re going to put it out. But we’re not closing our country.”

In announcing the Brazil restrictions, Ms. McEnany said they would not apply to the flow of commerce.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien suggested earlier Sunday that new restrictions were likely coming.

“We hope that’ll be temporary,” Mr. O’Brien said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re concerned about the people of the Southern Hemisphere and certainly the people of Brazil. … We’ll take a look at the other countries on a country-by-country basis, for sure.”

Brazil now has more than 347,000 reported COVID-19 cases, which is the second-highest total worldwide behind the U.S., according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the U.S. now has the tools for testing and contact tracing in place to open the country safely if people take proper precautions.

Mr. Azar said people can feel safe going to churches again. The president on Friday declared churches, synagogues and mosques “essential” locations.

“We can get back to work, back to school and back to worship in safe ways because of President Trump’s historic response here,” Mr. Azar said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Though the curve in cases and hospitalizations is starting to flatten in many locations, it has spiked recently in some states such as Arkansas and North Carolina as businesses reopen.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said state officials don’t see a connection between a relaxing of restrictions and the increase in cases and noted that the positivity rate on testing is running lower than 5%.

“You manage the risk by increasing the testing,” Mr. Hutchinson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We see [increased numbers of cases] because we are testing more and we’re following and tracing where those are coming from, and they’re not coming from the fact that we’ve lifted some of the restrictions.”

The economic fallout from the lockdowns has been substantial. Close to 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks.

White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett said the unemployment rate could be in the double digits in November even as the economy slowly improves.

“Yes, unemployment will be something that moves back slower,” he said on CNN. “I think it could be better than that. But you’re going to be starting at a number in the 20s and working your way down.”

He said the U.S. unemployment rate for May could be above 20%, which rivals the 24.9% peak rate during the Great Depression.

After months of historic lows, the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4% in March before spiking to 14.7% in April as the economic fallout from coronavirus-related lockdowns took hold.

Congress is eyeing tweaks to a popular small-business lending program for the next round of federal relief, but Mr. Hassett indicated that quick agreement on a broader package might be trickier.

He said the White House is considering another round of direct payments to Americans but that the popular payments of up to $1,200 might be junked in favor of items such as cuts to payroll and capital gains taxes that Democrats are likely to oppose.

Asked about more money for states and localities, a key Democratic demand, Mr. Hassett said significant aid already has been allocated for that purpose.

“I think that a lot of the requests for state and local bailouts that you’re seeing out there up on the Hill are radically, radically more money than the expected shortfall for the year,” he said. “We’re analyzing the numbers right now, and the requests are kind of absurd.”

He said a lot of Republicans are also concerned that the plussed-up unemployment benefits in the $2.2 trillion package that passed in March have made it more lucrative for many Americans to simply take the benefits rather than work.

“We look forward to working with people on potentially reforming that,” he said.

The Democrat-led House recently passed a more than $3 trillion bill that included another round of direct payments to millions of Americans, close to $1 trillion in additional money for states and localities, and an extension of the boosted federal unemployment benefits through January.

The White House and Senate Republicans have said the package isn’t going anywhere and that it includes extraneous items tied to immigration, elections and marijuana.

Many public health experts have said that a return to “normalcy” won’t really be possible until a vaccine is widely available for the public.

Mr. Azar said an end-of-year time frame for a coronavirus vaccine is a “very credible objective.”

“We just signed a deal with AstraZeneca for the Oxford vaccine where by October we could have a hundred million doses of vaccine and 300 million doses by early next year,” he said.

Mr. Azar said the ongoing debate about reopening the country isn’t necessarily a trade-off between public health and economic concerns.

“It’s actually an issue of health versus health,” he said. “By being locked up in our homes, there [are] very real health consequences.”

He said social and economic dislocation leads to adverse outcomes such as suicide and mental illness, fewer cancer screenings and treatments, and missed opportunities for children’s regular vaccinations.

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House Democrats say more DOJ probes into police departments needed to stop civil unrest

House Democrats on Thursday proposed solving the riots, bloodshed and looting plaguing American cities with more federal investigations of police departments, saying that getting the cops in line would remove the impetus for civil unrest. They want the Justice Department to crack down on police departments with investigations known as pattern-and-practice probes, which were a…

House Democrats say more DOJ probes into police departments needed to stop civil unrest

House Democrats on Thursday proposed solving the riots, bloodshed and looting plaguing American cities with more federal investigations of police departments, saying that getting the cops in line would remove the impetus for civil unrest.

They want the Justice Department to crack down on police departments with investigations known as pattern-and-practice probes, which were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to change police culture.

The Trump administration abandoned the inquiries. He said they were unfair to cops and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“We continue to see injustice and we continue to see civil unrest because of the desperation that exists in this country around racism and around injustice and lack of accountability. We just saw it yesterday in the Breonna Taylor case,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat, said at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the federal response to violent protests.

Ms. Escobar made the comments a day after a grand jury indicted only one of three Louisville, Kentucky, detectives involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, who has emerged as a martyr of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The charges, which are minor and are not related to the death of Taylor, applied only to an officer who fired wildly and put Taylor’s neighbors at risk. The other officers were not charged because they were fired upon first by Taylor’s boyfriend when they entered the apartment with a search warrant.

The announcement sparked a new round of demonstrations in cities across the country. In Louisville, two officers were shot just hours after the protests began.

On Thursday, police identified Larynzo Johnson as a suspect in the shooting and said the officers are expected to recover.

All told, 127 people were arrested in Louisville in the protests, police said.

The Louisville protests are the latest to erupt in U.S. cities as anger over the death of unarmed Black men and women, including Taylor and George Floyd, touched off violent demonstrations that included torched vehicles, looted stores and assaults on police officers.

Floyd, a Black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, touching off the nationwide protests.

At the hearing on Capitol Hill, Democrats and their witnesses insisted that federal investigations of police departments could have prevented the violence.

“If business leaders want their businesses to be protected and they want to ensure the community is at peace, then they too should want the Justice Department to bring their resources in and conduct a pattern and practice investigation,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told lawmakers.

Ms. Ifill said the Louisville Police Department was ripe for a pattern-and-practice investigation because it “had problems for many, many years.” She said the probe would create a path forward for the community.

“That will help protect businesses as well because it will bring some order, some vision and a road map for public safety in Louisville,” she said.

Republicans pushed back on the idea of more police investigations. The probes end with consent decrees that, they said, hinder officers’ ability to fight crime.

A consent decree is an agreement in which a local department promises the Justice Department that it will make changes to its procedures. Critics point to a rise in crime in cities that have enacted decrees.

Baltimore and the Justice Department entered into a consent decree in 2017 after a federal investigation in the case of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody.

By 2019, Baltimore recorded one of its deadliest years on record with 348 homicides and more than twice as many shooting injuries.

Republicans say the federal government needs to take a more forceful approach to confront rioters.

Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said Attorney General William Barr should be praised for his heavy-handed response to violent demonstrations.

“If he had not done it, we’d have more of this massive property destruction all across the country,” Mr. Johnson said. “He ought to be applauded for taking a strong stance on that because if he hadn’t, the safety of every single American is in jeopardy.”

The lone Republican witness at the Judiciary Committee hearing was Sam Mabrouk, an Egyptian immigrant who came to the United States over a decade ago. His store in Columbus, Ohio, was looted during the May protests of Floyd’s death.

The loss of merchandise from the store was estimated to be over $70,000 and was not covered by insurance. Mr. Mabrouk told lawmakers that he lost 10 years of savings and hard work in two hours as looters pilfered his store.

Mr. Mabrouk was threatened twice with being shot that night.

“I have been living the American dream, along with all the blood, sweat and tears that it requires,” he said. “Then one day, I woke up to a nightmare of loss and destruction. But I am not a quitter, and I’m ready to work harder than before to get my small business back to where they were before that horrible night of May 29, 2020.”

He said local and state officials failed to adequately ensure his safety and expressed frustration that no one had been prosecuted for the damage to his store.

When asked whether state and local officials protected his property or liberty, Mr. Mabrouk said, “I did not see that.”

Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, expressed sympathy for Mr. Mabrouk but used his testimony to respond to Republican criticism that Democratic lawmakers haven’t forcefully condemned the violence and destruction across the country this summer.

He said Democrats did not respond earlier this summer when Mr. Barr asked them to condemn the violence during an appearance before the full committee.

Mr. Cohen responded that it was not the “appropriate time.”

“We are against looting and unlawful behavior,” he said.

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House passes $25 billion Postal Service bill

House Democrats passed their Postal Service bill late Saturday afternoon, despite Republican accusations that they were chasing a “conspiracy theory” about a crumbling agency. The bill garnered support from 26 Republicans and passed on a 257-150 vote. The vote was held during a rare Saturday session that interrupted the House’s break. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of…

House passes $25 billion Postal Service bill

House Democrats passed their Postal Service bill late Saturday afternoon, despite Republican accusations that they were chasing a “conspiracy theory” about a crumbling agency.

The bill garnered support from 26 Republicans and passed on a 257-150 vote. The vote was held during a rare Saturday session that interrupted the House’s break.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of New York, one of the Republicans that voted for the bill, said this was a long-standing issue that needed to overcome partisan divisions and be addressed.

The bill would infuse the Postal Service with $25 billion in additional funding — an amount suggested by the agency’s board of governors earlier this year — and reverse all new policy changes to revert the agency back to how it was functioning in January 2020.

Democratic leaders touted the bill as a vital step toward shoring up the USPS ahead of its critical role in the November elections. They argued the policy provisions would help prevent voter suppression.

“The new Postmaster General is using this lack of funding to justify sweeping and damaging changes to Postal Service operations, and we have seen the results,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said on the House floor.

“It makes absolutely no sense to implement these dramatic changes in the middle of a pandemic, less than three months before the November elections,” the New York Democrat continued. “The American people do not want anyone messing with the Post Office. They certainly do not want it to be politicized. They just want their mail. They want their medicines. And they want their mail-in ballots delivered in a timely way.”

The legislation comes amidst widespread concern about new policy changes, including the collection of mailboxes, the decommissioning of mail sorting machines, changes to mail routes, and cuts to overtime — with many across the country reporting delivery delays.

While Democrats have heavily emphasized the impact the changes could have on the pandemic-era election, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also concerned about the effect it’s having on rural communities and those desperately needing medications.

Republican leadership argued Democrats were making a much bigger deal than necessary of the Postal Service’s struggles and spreading “mailbox myths.”

President Trump slammed the bill as a “money wasting hoax” and said Democrats were just trying to push through their own priorities for mail-in ballots.

“I urge everyone to be calm … the Postal Service is not incapacitated. It is still fully capable of delivering the mail,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

He argued that the USPS will be financially solvent through August 2021, that the agency was more than capable of delivering mail ballots at its current capacity, and that mailbox collection was not an abnormal policy.

At a Senate hearing on the policy changes, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy acknowledged there was a “dip” in services, but suggested they were only temporary bugs.

At one point, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, shouted, “This is not a real crisis!”

He highlighted his frustration by pointing out that more than 60 Democrats didn’t come into Capitol Hill, instead voting by proxy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, refuted the GOP’s argument against additional funding for the Postal Service, arguing it was different than other businesses.

“When people say, ‘Well it doesn’t pay its own way’ — it’s not a business, it’s a service,” she said. “And while we always want to subject every federal dollar to the scrutiny of what we’re getting for it. Let us remember that it is a service.”

The bill also came under fire from Republicans who wanted to see Democrats address COVID relief rather than focus specifically on the Postal Service.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows came up to Capitol Hill on Saturday, urging Speaker Pelosi to roll the Postal Service bill into a COVID-relief package with funds for the small business loan program and enhanced unemployment benefits — both of which expired earlier this month.

More than 100 rank-and-file Democrats have also requested that their leadership take up some sort of COVID relief bill.

Mrs. Pelosi said Mr. Meadows’ request was “deficient” because it didn’t address school funding or food security. She resisted narrow bills during the larger negotiations and defended deviating from that stance with the Postal Service bill.

“I’m not for splitting it up, except this is an emergency, and it has policy in it,” she said.

“This is more of a partisan bill than it is a real attempt at solving the problem, but hopefully its a start to something,” Mr. Meadows said of the Postal Service bill.

“What makes everything a political issue is the fact that we’re 70 plus days out from a November 3rd election,” he added.

Senate Republicans said they won’t be taking up the Postal Service bill unless additional COVID relief is attached.

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US House passes bill to send $25bn to Postal Service, block cuts |NationalTribune.com

The Democratic-led US House of Representatives voted on Saturday to provide the cash-strapped Postal Service with $25bn and to block policy changes that have stirred concerns about mail-in voting in advance of the November 3 election. The chamber passed the emergency bill, dubbed the “Delivering for America Act”, on Saturday during a rare Saturday session…

US House passes bill to send $25bn to Postal Service, block cuts |NationalTribune.com

The Democratic-led US House of Representatives voted on Saturday to provide the cash-strapped Postal Service with $25bn and to block policy changes that have stirred concerns about mail-in voting in advance of the November 3 election.
The chamber passed the emergency bill, dubbed the “Delivering for America Act”, on Saturday during a rare Saturday session called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the congressional August recess. The bill passed 257 to 150. 
Twenty-six Republicans broke party ranks and voted for the bill.

The legislation would undo any recent changes to operations that may slow the Postal Service’s mail delivery, provide an infusion of cash for the agency to deal with the extra workload during the election and the continuing coronavirus outbreak, and require all ballots be treated as first-class mail. 
It would also prevent Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from making any operational changes to the agency until after next January or the end of the coronavirus health emergency, whichever comes later.  
The bill is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House Office of Management and Budget said it strongly opposes the measure and would recommend President Donald Trump veto it. 
Trump has repeatedly denounced mail-in voting, which is expected to surge due to the coronavirus pandemic, as a possible source of fraud, despite a dearth of evidence supporting that claim.
Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Trump of trying to undermine the Postal Service for political gain and DeJoy, a Trump donor who was selected to the position by a board of governors appointed by Trump, of making financial cuts and policy changes that will slow the delivery of mail-in ballots.
Last week, the Postal Service reportedly warned 46 of the 50 US states, as well as the District of Columbia, that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time under the states’ current deadlines for sending the ballots. 
DeJoy has since suspended the financial cuts and assured a Senate committee on Friday that the Postal Service would deliver ballots “securely and on time”, however, he said he would not restore the already-made cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment.
Day-long debate 
Democrats cast themselves in Saturday’s debate as defenders of a public that relies on the Postal Service for vital deliveries including prescription drugs.
“The American people do not want anyone messing with the Post Office. They certainly do not want it to be politicised. They just want their mail, they want their medicines and they want their mail-in ballots delivered in a timely way. And that is exactly what our bill does,” said Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, who authored the legislation. 
Maloney also released internal Postal Service documents that showed more dramatic declines in deliveries arriving on time than legislators had previously been told.
Republicans, meanwhile, countered that complaints about mail delivery disruptions were overblown, and no emergency funding is currently needed.

“Do we need that money? Absolutely, no,” said Representative Tom Cole. “It’s a silly, silly bill.” 
In a memo to House Republicans, party leaders derided the legislation as a postal “conspiracy theory” act.
While the bill is expected to languish in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing a $10bn postal rescue as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. While Trump has said he wants to block emergency funding for the agency, the White House has said it would be open to more postal funding as part of a broader bill.
The Postal Service has been struggling financially under a decline in mail volume, COVID-19-related costs and a rare and cumbersome congressional requirement to fund in advance its retiree healthcare benefits. 
Some have called for the agency to be run more like a private company, while defenders say the agency is a public service that should not be run as a money-making endeavour.
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