House delays vote on Covid relief package in bid for last-minute deal


Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speak at the U.S. Capitol. | Alex Brandon – Pool/Getty Images

House Democrats are waiting one more day before voting on their coronavirus aid package, giving Speaker Nancy Pelosi a final 24 hours to reach a deal with the White House before taking up their own bill and going home.

The House is now expected to vote Thursday on Democrats’ $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, reversing course from earlier in the day, when lawmakers were told they would vote Wednesday night.

Advertisement

But Pelosi and top Democrats delayed the vote to buy more for the last-gasp negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — which are widely seen as Congress’ final chance to approve more pandemic aid before the election. Several centrist Democrats had urged party leaders to hold off, arguing it would be fruitless to take a party-line vote if a deal may be clinched.

“We’ll have to see. If we have an agreement, we’re going to pass that agreement, then we’re done until after the election,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday, noting that timing for the rest of the week remained in flux. “It’s hard to say when we’re going to leave.”

Pelosi and Mnuchin met in the Capitol for 90 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, their first in-person sit down since bipartisan talks fell apart in early August. The meeting follows days of calls between the two with both parties under immense pressure to reach a bipartisan agreement that extends a financial lifeline to tens of millions of increasingly desperate Americans before the election.

In a statement, Pelosi said she and Mnuchin will continue to talk but offered no details on whether a deal was imminent.

“We found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversation will continue,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin was also positive after meeting with Pelosi and then crossing the Capitol to huddle briefly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We made a lot of progress over the last few days,” Mnuchin told reporters as he left the Capitol. “We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do. And we’re gonna see where we end up.”

Still, Senate Republicans remain cool to the talks, skeptical that they will be able to pass a large bill with majority GOP support and unwilling to simply provide a blank check to the White House. Republicans coalesced behind a $300 billion bill earlier this month, but Senate Democrats blocked it after deeming it far short of what’s needed to address the crisis.

McConnell said Thursday that Republicans want another rescue package but Democrats’ $2.2 trillion price tag is simply “too high.”

“It’s safe to say we’re far apart,” McConnell told reporters. “The thought that Senate Republicans would go up to $2.2 trillion is outlandish.”

The final flurry of negotiations in Washington comes as tens of thousands of layoffs are piling up in industries battered by the pandemic, from airlines to theme parks

Read more

Mnuchin reports movement on COVID-19 relief; House delays vote

By David Lawder and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday said talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made progress on COVID-19 relief legislation, and the House of Representatives postponed a vote on a $2.2 trillion Democratic coronavirus plan to allow more time for a bipartisan deal to come together.

Less than five weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential and congressional elections, Mnuchin and Pelosi both said negotiations would continue toward a bipartisan agreement to deliver aid to millions of Americans and businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has infected more than 7.2 million people and killed over 206,000 in the United States.

“We made a lot of progress over the last few days. We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do. And we’re going to see where we end up,” Mnuchin told reporters after meeting with Pelosi for about 90 minutes in the U.S. Capitol.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of areas,” he said.

For her part, Pelosi avoided use of the term “progress.”

“Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversation will continue,” the top Democrat in Congress said in a statement.

She said the House would vote late on Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion updated Heroes Act “to formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”

But later Wednesday that vote was postponed until Thursday. Lawmakers are “giving one more day for a deal to come together,” a Democratic aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Before the meeting in Pelosi’s office broke up, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, told reporters that Republicans and Democrats were still “very, very far apart” on how much to spend and called Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion bill “outlandish.”

House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries told reporters that a vote on the legislation would show the Democratic caucus’ “vision on what’s right legislatively at this moment.”

Formal talks between Pelosi, Mnuchin, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows broke down on Aug. 7. Pelosi has since taken the lead for Democrats.

Before talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed, the White House had said Trump could agree to a $1.3 trillion bill.

(Reporting by David Lawder, David Morgan, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Source Article

Read more

House Delays Vote on $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill Lacking GOP Backing

WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives postponed a vote on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package as Democrats tried to find common ground with the White House on a bipartisan agreement, though they remained far apart on key issues.

Democratic aides said the delay was to allow the two sides one more day to keep talking before a vote. As written now, the legislation has no hope of advancing in the GOP-controlled Senate, but many centrist Democrats were eager to pass a new bill before they returned to campaigning in their home districts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) met Wednesday afternoon for 90 minutes and failed to reach an agreement.

“We found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” Mrs. Pelosi said as she announced plans to hold a vote. “Our conversations will continue.”

The updated legislation released earlier this week shaved the price tag of economic relief to $2.2 trillion, compared with the $3.5 trillion bill the House passed in May.

“We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do,” Mr. Mnuchin said after the meeting. “We’re going to see where we end up.”

Mr. Mnuchin and Mrs. Pelosi have made a late push to try to reach a coronavirus-relief deal before the election, despite skepticism on Capitol Hill that an agreement is possible at this stage. The House is slated to leave for a monthlong recess at the end of this week.

Separately on Wednesday, the Senate passed a short-term spending bill, approved by the House last week, keeping the government funded through Dec. 11.

Republicans and Democrats are in agreement on many of the policy items under discussion, including additional aid for small businesses, restaurants and airlines as well as money to help schools reopen safely, but they remain split over top party priorities.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leaving a Wednesday meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.



Photo:

Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Frustrated lawmakers from both parties have begun pushing for legislation that would extend or change the popular Paycheck Protection Program that allows small businesses to get forgivable loans, with some House Democrats considering a procedural maneuver that would go around leadership. In the Senate on Wednesday, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) attempted to pass legislation to simplify the forgiveness provisions by unanimous consent but it was blocked by Democrats who have insisted that any coronavirus legislation be more expansive.

In a call with House Democrats on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi said the two major obstacles for reaching a deal were Democrats’ priority to include funding for state and local governments in the aid bill, which many Republicans have dubbed a “blue state bailout,” and Republicans’ priority to have liability protections for businesses and health providers, which Democrats object to, according to a person on the call.

“They’re not there at all,” Mrs. Pelosi said of the state and local aid money, according to the person.

Many Republicans have resisted a large new round of spending and have expressed

Read more

House delays historic vote to decriminalize marijuana until after November election

Sept. 21 (UPI) — A bill seeking to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, which was originally scheduled for a vote in Congress Monday, must now wait until after the November general election.

The House originally expected to pass the measure, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, this week but action on the measure was shelved in part due to a deadlock in Congress over the next round of COVID-19 economic stimulus.

The MORE Act would, for the first time, decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the federal government’s list of controlled substances that are illegal to possess.

The law would remove federal penalties on marijuana, expunge criminal records related to marijuana and create a 5% federal sales tax on the sale of marijuana to fund community programs that benefit persons previously convicted of drug offenses.

Both President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama have elected not to enforce federal prohibitions on marijuana in states that have chosen to legalize it for recreational or medical use, such as California, Colorado and Washington.

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions broke with Trump on the issue, favoring the enforcement of federal laws against marijuana, but the president supported efforts to decriminalize the drug.

There are still federal barriers, however, that create obstacles for marijuana businesses, including provisions that make it difficult for them to secure bank loans.

Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug in the United States, which means it’s illegal to use, possess and sale. All illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, are in Schedule I classification.

The legislation would fully deschedule marijuana — as opposed to rescheduling the substance in another classification, like prescription opioids — and tetrahydrocannabinols, except for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.

The MORE Act has been sponsored by 86 Democrats and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-Calif., told USA Today earlier this month he was sure the bill would pass, as it had “probably unanimous” Democratic support and “considerable Republican support.”

Nadler, however was unsure how the bill might fare in the Senate — as a measure introduced last year by Democratic vice presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris failed to receive traction in the Republican-controlled chamber.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement the House would take up a vote on the MORE Act “later this autumn,” citing higher priorities and a short window of time before Congress recesses again in October until after the presidential election.

In addition to a new COVID-19 stimulus deal, Congress also must avert a federal shutdown before government funding runs out on Sept. 30.

“The House is focused relentlessly on securing an agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hoyer said.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said a vote on the decriminalization measure will take place before the end of the year.

“The leadership has now given an ironclad

Read more

Inmate transfers for wildfires causing overcrowding and delays in medication, meals, bathroom access, families say

The state mismanaged its evacuation of 3,439 inmates who were moved in the last week from four minimum- and medium-security prisons in the Willamette Valley to prisons in Salem and Madras due to wildfire smoke, their attorneys said Monday.

Inmates with different security levels were mixed, leading to a rash of fights, the lawyers said. Guards were unprepared and used pepper spray to respond to rioting, adding the toxic chemical to prisons already filled with smoke from nearby fires, they said.

Inmates also didn’t get their medication on time, they said, and no meals were served for nearly 24 hours for women prisoners transferred out of Coffee Creek Correctional Institution.

Some inmates were forced to sleep on the floor, with little social distancing and increased risk of the coronavirus, according to family members.

Women transported in the middle of the night from Coffee Creek Correctional Institution sat on buses for hours, forcing them to urinate in their pants without access to bathrooms.

“Women were peeing in cups and throwing tampons and feces out the buses,” said Rod Richardson, whose wife Tammy Saylor was among those moved from the women’s prison in Wilsonville to Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras. Once at Deer Ridge, she had to sleep on metal bed springs for hours before mattresses arrived, he said.

A group of attorneys representing inmates urged Gov. Kate Brown to release those who are medically vulnerable and are six months away from release.

“It appears as if there wasn’t a plan for this,” said attorney Tara Herivel, who described the Oregon Department of Corrections actions as extremely haphazard.

More than 180 habeas corpus court cases are pending across the state by inmates already arguing that the prison conditions are unsafe, increasing their risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Lawyers are expected to incorporate the latest prison evacuations and changes into those cases, pointing to the altered, deteriorating conditions as further examples of alleged “deliberate indifference” to inmates’ medical conditions and safety, Herivel said.

The Corrections Department “has not only abused and mistreated our clients and other Oregonians in prison, they have exposed them to a mass COVID contraction environment,” she wrote to state officials.

Jennifer Black, spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, said the agency recognizes that “life at some of our institutions is not ideal for those who live and work at them” because of the wildfire emergency.

“However, life and safety are our first priority and we will return to normal operations as soon as conditions allow.”

Inmates from the Oregon State Correctional Institution, the Santiam Correctional Institution and Mill Creek Correctional, which are all in Salem and sit closest to the mouth of the Santiam Canyon, were moved to the Oregon State Penitentiary, also in Salem, last week. The inmates from Mill Creek and Santiam are now back at those prisons, according to Black.

The Corrections Department has extensive emergency preparedness plans that cover evacuations, mainly for a potential Cascadia earthquake, Black said. The state faced “unique circumstances” it couldn’t

Read more

Delays, high costs plague efforts to house LA’s homeless

FILE - This May 21, 2020 file photo shows a homeless encampment on Beaudry Avenue as traffic moves along Interstate 110 in downtown Los Angeles. A $1.2 billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit, on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

FILE – This May 21, 2020 file photo shows a homeless encampment on Beaudry Avenue as traffic moves along Interstate 110 in downtown Los Angeles. A $1.2 billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit, on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

AP

A $1.2 billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit.

Voters passed a 2016 bond measure to help ease the deepening homelessness crisis by creating up to 10,000 housing units over a decade.

Since then, only three new housing projects have been completed and others that are under construction won’t be open for at least two more years, City Controller Ron Galperin said in a report released Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, the crisis has gotten far worse, compounded by pressing COVID-19 health and safety concerns. To truly reduce homelessness as LA voters intended, the city must meet the moment by pivoting to an action plan that will house more people right away. We cannot stay the course when people are dying every day on our streets,” Galperin said in a statement.

Galperin recommends the city shift gears and immediately begin converting hotels and other large buildings into interim shelters to save money and get people off the streets quickly.

Since the last audit in 2019, the average cost of housing projects in development increased from $507,000 per unit to nearly $559,000, the report said. Galperin cited two outlier projects that saw costs spike to nearly $750,000 per unit.

Most of the delays began before the coronavirus pandemic, he found.

A January count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there were more than 66,400 homeless people in LA County, with the majority living within the city limits.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the city controller’s findings.

The homelessness crisis is visible in downtown Los Angeles, where hundreds of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row. Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall, and encampments are increasingly found in suburban areas under freeway overpasses.

Source Article

Read more

Delays, high costs plague efforts to house LA’s homeless

Updated


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A $1.2 billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit.

Voters passed a 2016 bond measure to help ease the deepening homelessness crisis by creating up to 10,000 housing units over a decade.


Since then, only three new housing projects have been completed and others that are under construction won’t be open for at least two more years, City Controller Ron Galperin said in a report released Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, the crisis has gotten far worse, compounded by pressing COVID-19 health and safety concerns. To truly reduce homelessness as LA voters intended, the city must meet the moment by pivoting to an action plan that will house more people right away. We cannot stay the course when people are dying every day on our streets,” Galperin said in a statement.



Galperin recommends the city shift gears and immediately begin converting hotels and other large buildings into interim shelters to save money and get people off the streets quickly.


Since the last audit in 2019, the average cost of housing projects in development increased from $507,000 per unit to nearly $559,000, the report said. Galperin cited two outlier projects that saw costs spike to nearly $750,000 per unit.

Most of the delays began before the coronavirus pandemic, he found.

A January count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there were more than 66,400 homeless people in

Read more