White House pushes for limited coronavirus relief bill as broader effort meets resistance

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin takes questions from news reporters with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows following a series of meetings on efforts to pass new coronavirus aid legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday called on Congress to pass a coronavirus relief bill using leftover funds from the small business loan program as negotiations on a more comprehensive package face resistance.

Their proposal was the latest twist in the on-again, off-again talks to try to secure more stimulus for the economy.

In a letter to House and Senate members, Mnuchin and Meadows said the White House would continue to talk to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but that Congress should “immediately vote on a bill” that would enable the use of unused Paycheck Protection Program funds.

“The all or nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people,” they wrote.

President Donald Trump on Friday offered a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package in talks with Pelosi after urging his team on Twitter to “go big” – moving closer to Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion proposal. That came after Trump earlier last week said he was calling off negotiations until after the Nov. 3 election.

Trump’s reversal and higher offer drew criticism from at least 20 Senate Republicans, who said they were concerned a deal would cost Republicans support in the upcoming elections.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that he thought Senate Republicans would eventually come around.

“I think if an agreement can be reached, they will go along with it,” he said, adding that there will be “further efforts of negotiation” on a package this week.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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White House Floats $1.8 Trillion Stimulus Offer in Last-Ditch Effort: Live Updates

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

The White House, seeking to revive stimulus talks that President Trump called off just days ago, planned on Friday to put forward its largest offer for economic relief yet, as some Republicans worried about being blamed by voters for failing to deliver needed aid ahead of the election.

The new proposal, for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to present to congressional Democrats, would increase the White House’s plan for coronavirus stimulus to $1.8 trillion.

The president “would like to do a deal,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said on the Fox Business Network on Friday, in the latest head-snapping turn in the on-again-off-again negotiations. The overall price tag of the offer was confirmed by two people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the talks.

Fanning the sense of optimism, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter: “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

The prospects of a compromise remained remote, however, given the opposition of many Republicans to another large infusion of federal virus aid. Speaking to reporters in Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, cast doubt on the chances of a deal, saying political divisions remained too deep less than a month before Election Day.

“The situation is kind of murky and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” Mr. McConnell said. “I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

Yet the White House was working to resuscitate negotiations that Mr. Trump himself cut off in a series of indignant tweets on Tuesday, amid deep concern among some vulnerable Republicans that his abrupt abandonment of the talks would hurt them politically.

Mr. Kudlow said that the president met with Mr. Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, on Friday and that the Treasury secretary would speak with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California later Friday afternoon.

Without an agreement, the collateral damage across the country has continued to mount in the absence of federal funding, with more than 800,000 Americans filing new applications for state benefits, before adjusting for seasonal variations.

Even if Ms. Pelosi were to accept the administration’s latest proposal, which is lower than the $2.2 trillion package she pushed through the House this month, Senate Republicans remain divided over the scope of another coronavirus relief package.

Most of them opposed the original $1 trillion offer Mr. McConnell presented in July, after days of haggling with the White House, in part because they were concerned about adding to the national debt. Mr. McConnell has since scaled back the offer considerably, proposing a $350 billion “skinny” plan that Democrats blocked, calling it inadequate.

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Trump and first lady test positive for coronavirus, sparking White House contact tracing effort

Good morning, NBC News readers.

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania have tested positive for Covid-19, throwing the country’s leadership and the 2020 election into uncharted territory.

Here’s what we know so far.


President Trump and his wife Melania test positive for coronavirus

President Donald Trump announced just before 1 a.m. ET that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.

The White House physician, Sean Conley, released a letter about Trump’s diagnosis, saying, “The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”

The announcement immediately throws into question the nature of the remaining 32 days of the campaign, including the last two presidential debates. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami.

The news came shortly after the president said he and the first lady were in the “quarantine process” following senior aide Hope Hicks’ positive test Thursday.

Stock futures plunged in early Friday trading after the announcement. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted over 500 points.

While the news that the president had tested positive for Covid-19 came as a jolt — medical experts said it shouldn’t have.

In recent weeks, Trump, 74, has held mass gatherings, some indoors, and shunned mask use while claiming the end of the virus was just around the corner.

In turn, his staff, his family members, and his supporters have followed his lead. As recently as Tuesday evening at the first presidential debate, Trump family members and other members of the administration did not wear masks inside the hall, despite a rule mandating that members of the audience wear them.

“This was avoidable,” said NBC News contributor Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert. “No masking, no distancing — what did they expect was going to happen?” Gupta said.

Now the White House has the massive job of trying to contract trace all of the people the president and his staff have met with over the last several days.

As of Thursday, more than 7.3 million Covid-19 cases had been confirmed in the U.S. and more than 208, 000 Americans have died because of the illness, according to NBC News’ count.

Of course, Trump is not the first world leader to succumb to Covid-19.

Six months ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 55, tested positive during the height of the pandemic in the U.K.. After initially downplaying the severity of his illness, Johnson ended up in the hospital for a week — including in an intensive care unit where he received oxygen for several days.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro also tested positive in July after months of dismissing the disease.

Meantime many of those leaders, as well private citizens, have sent the president and first lady their well wishes

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Trump effort to bar racial-sensitivity trainings in federal government leads to confusion for employees

“I ended it because a lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane, that it was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools all over the place,” Trump said. “And you know it. And so does everybody.”

Democratic nominee Joe Biden alleged, however, that Trump had a much different motive for banning the trainings: “He’s a racist.”

Their comments came one day after the White House issued its second set of guidelines on the attempted bans. The guidelines outlined how the government would retaliate against those who did not follow the new restrictions.

They have raised numerous questions inside government agencies about how to proceed. It also triggered a backlash within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, with some career employees complaining policy is being set based on what the president sees on conservative cable networks — and OMB officials are happily going along with it.

Russell Vought, OMB’s director, updated the administration’s guidance after the National Park Service sent agency officials a memo last week suspending hundreds of training programs while it tried to understand how to comply with the order, according to emails and documents reviewed by The Washington Post. It would later narrow the list of suspended courses, but some employees said they still included ones on sexual harassment, tribal consultation and how to respond to people with disabilities.

The White House orders have led to scrambling throughout the government.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the government’s second-largest agency and among the most decentralized, abruptly canceled a diversity training program at the VA hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. This decision was made by the agency’s Washington headquarters after a conservative activist flagged the event on Twitter.

The chain of events stems from a Sept. 4 memo Vought issued, which said Trump had asked him to stop federal agencies from giving employee trainings on “white privilege” and critical race theory. Vought cast this approach as “divisive” and “un-American.”

The White House issued the memo after Fox News ran a number of segments criticizing “diversity and inclusion” efforts in the federal government.

Trump saw one of the cable news programs and asked aides, “What is this crap?” an administration official said, describing his reaction, and he directed OMB to cancel the seminars. Trump saw the matter as a winning campaign issue. Within days, a guest on Fox News who raised the issue had been called, Vought had been summoned to the Oval Office, and the memo from OMB had been drafted. It was released late on a Friday night.

Trump followed up with an executive order last week barring federal contractors from using workplace training that includes what he called “race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” The president has also asked other aides what else can be done to make sure agencies are complying.

The White House directives attempt to create significant penalties for federal

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House rebuffs GOP lawmaker’s effort to remove references to Democrats in Capitol

The House on Tuesday tabled a resolution offered by conservative Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertRep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert ‘disregarding public health guidance’ on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Texas) calling on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAirline industry applauds Democrats for including aid in coronavirus relief package Democrats unveil scaled-down .2T coronavirus relief package Trump tax reveal roils presidential race MORE (D-Calif.) to remove any references in the lower chamber to political parties that supported slavery or the Confederacy, including the Democratic Party.

The chamber tabled the measure in a 223-176 vote. Gohmert offered the resolution after the Democratic-controlled House voted in July to remove statues of people who served the Confederacy or otherwise worked to defend slavery from the Capitol.

Critics of removing the Confederate statues, including Gohmert, argued that lawmakers were attempting to erase history by doing away with the symbols.

“Due to parliamentary issues, I am re-introducing my Privileged Resolution and urging my Democratic colleagues to rid the House wing of the U.S. Capitol of any item that names, symbolizes or mentions their own political party because of its past support for slavery and the Confederacy,” Gohmert said in a statement reintroducing the resolution on Thursday.

“Though I personally believe we need to learn from history including the good, the bad and the ugly, the Democratic Party has initiated this purging but needs assistance to avoid unparalleled hypocrisy. So, it is time for Democrats to account for, be washed of, and rid our Capitol of the sins of their party’s past.”

The resolution — which was co-sponsored by GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HicePelosi must go — the House is in dire need of new leadership House Republicans investigating California secretary of state’s contract with Biden-linked firm GOP lawmakers want answers from Disney on Mulan, China MORE (Ga.), Randy WeberRandall (Randy) Keith WeberOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups | Kudlow: ‘No sector worse hurt than energy’ during pandemic | Trump pledges ‘no politics’ in Pebble Mine review Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups  GOP’s Gohmert introduces resolution that would ban the Democratic Party MORE (Texas), Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisCongressman who denounced mask wearing overseeing the trial of a drug to treat COVID-19 Pelosi must go — the House is in dire need of new leadership Ukraine language in GOP platform underscores Trump tensions MORE (Md.), Rick CrawfordRick CrawfordLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise Republicans score procedural victory on Democrats’ infrastructure bill The case for renewed US engagement in Latin America MORE (Ark.), and Ralph NormanRalph Warren NormanHouse Dems introduce bill to require masks on planes and in airports Bipartisan bill introduced to require TSA to take temperature checks House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks MORE (S.C.) — points to the Democratic Party supporting the institution of slavery during the time of

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Behind the White House Effort to Pressure the C.D.C. on School Openings

WASHINGTON — Top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer to downplay the risk of sending children back to school, a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic, according to documents and interviews with current and former government officials.

As part of their behind-the-scenes effort, White House officials also tried to circumvent the C.D.C. in a search for alternate data showing that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children.

The documents and interviews show how the White House spent weeks trying to press public health professionals to fall in line with President Trump’s election-year agenda of pushing to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible. The president and his team have remained defiant in their demand for schools to get back to normal, even as coronavirus cases have once again ticked up, in some cases linked to school and college reopenings.

The effort included Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, and officials working for Vice President Mike Pence, who led the task force. It left officials at the C.D.C., long considered the world’s premier public health agency, alarmed at the degree of pressure from the White House.

One member of Mr. Pence’s staff said she was repeatedly asked by Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, to get the C.D.C. to produce more reports and charts showing a decline in coronavirus cases among young people.

The staff member, Olivia Troye, one of Mr. Pence’s top aides on the task force, said she regretted being “complicit” in the effort. But she said she tried as much as possible to shield the C.D.C. from the White House pressure, which she saw as driven by the president’s determination to have schools open by the time voters cast ballots.

“You’re impacting people’s lives for whatever political agenda. You’re exchanging votes for lives, and I have a serious problem with that,” said Ms. Troye, who left the White House in August and has begun speaking out publicly against Mr. Trump.

According to Ms. Troye, Mr. Short dispatched junior members of the vice president’s staff to circumvent the C.D.C. in search of data he thought might better support the White House’s position.

“I was appalled when I found out that Marc Short was tasking more junior staff in the office of the vice president to develop charts” for White House briefings, she said.

The White House did not publicly respond to the accusations. After Ms. Troye went public this month, Mr. Short told MSNBC that she had a vendetta against the president and that she left the White House because “the strain was too much for her to do the job.”

Several former officials said that before one task force briefing in late June, White House officials, including Ms. Troye, spoke to top C.D.C. officers asking for data that could show the low risk of infection and death for school-age children —

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Cipollone, Meadows Lead White House Effort to Confirm Barrett to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON—President Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But his White House’s work is just beginning.

While the decision to confirm Judge Barrett rests with the Senate, the job of vigorously defending her to reassure those lawmakers—and keep an already-accelerated process on track—will fall squarely to the Trump White House.

The West Wing will have help. The president’s robust re-election team, which has raised more than $1 billion and occupies three floors of a Washington-area office building with multiple TV studios and scores of staff, has been prepped to support the nominee. A coterie of conservative issue groups and public-relations firms are mounting their own $20 million marketing campaign.

But the tip of that spear remains Mr. Trump’s West Wing, which must overcome its own internal divisions, a dearth of deep relationships in the Senate and a mixed record of achievement on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump has replaced nearly all of his senior staff since Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on April 7, 2017, and most of the top aides who helped with the last Supreme Court nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed on Oct. 6, 2018.

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, are both new to the job since Mr. Kavanaugh was confirmed. Their partnership will determine the success of the White House confirmation team, officials said.

President Trump with Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House nomination event on Saturday.



Photo:

Shawn Thew/Zuma Press

The White House team for Ms. Barrett’s confirmation has been slow to coordinate on messaging with its Senate counterparts, according to people familiar with the process. But others said it is on track, pointing out that Judge Barrett started filling out a lengthy Senate questionnaire ahead of the nomination, and much of her background vetting has been completed.

But the White House’s legislative-affairs office, which played a key role in previous confirmations, has seen its role diminished in recent months as Mr. Meadows, a former House member from North Carolina, has taken on some of those lobbying duties. The office is currently run by Amy Swonger, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been operating with the title of acting director, even though the position doesn’t require Senate approval.

“What they’re up against is a very determined opposition and tight time frame,” said Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator from Arizona who helped guide Justice Kavanaugh’s intense confirmation process.

If Mr. Trump is successful in his push to install Judge Barrett before Nov. 3, he would be the first president in nearly 50 years to have a third Supreme Court nominee confirmed before facing re-election, according to Senate records. It may also stand as either the final significant achievement of Mr. Trump’s first term, or—depending on the outcome of the election—his last major act as president.

So far as president, few of Mr. Trump’s accomplishments have been marked by the kind of rapid and polished execution he

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House Democrats consider scaled-back stimulus proposal in effort to jumpstart stalled talks

House Democrats are preparing a new coronavirus relief package in an effort to shake free negotiations that have been in a stalemate for nearly two months.



Nancy Pelosi looking at the camera: WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are expected to speak by phone with White House officials throughout the weekend as they continue to negotiations about extending unemployment benefits amidst the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


© Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 31: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are expected to speak by phone with White House officials throughout the weekend as they continue to negotiations about extending unemployment benefits amidst the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has instructed her committee chairs to put together a proposal that would serve as a scaled back version of earlier Democratic offers — though one that would largely align with the topline number Pelosi has held for several weeks. That topline, of $2.2 trillion, is more than $1 trillion lower than the stimulus proposal House Democrats passed in May. The Trump administration has said it would be willing to consider a proposal somewhere around $1.5 trillion — meaning even the scaled-back Democratic proposal will exceed the high-end of where Republicans have been willing to go up to this point.

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The split on the topline underscores the central issue that has left negotiations moribund since early August, according to members and aides in both parties: the significant difference in views on the scope and scale of the problems that need to be addressed in a second major stimulus package. The first, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, was passed in both chambers nearly unanimously back in the spring. But since then, Republicans have urged a more targeted approach and objected to Democratic proposals to direct $915 billion to states and localities struggling with budget shortfalls due in large part to their pandemic response.

But frontline House Democrats have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks about the need to do something before the chamber breaks for the campaign season, which it is scheduled to do next week. And some freshman Democrats, who have backed a bipartisan proposal worth between $1.5 trillion-$2 trillion by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, are demanding their leadership put on the floor a bill that can become law — not a partisan bill intended to send a message.

“If it’s a messaging exercise, it’s worthless,” Rep. Dean Phillips, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, told CNN. He said a bill worth $2.4 trillion would mean Republicans would likely line up to oppose it, and House Democrats would look “very similar” to Senate Republicans who pushed a partisan bill that failed in their chamber earlier this month and was meant in part to give cover to their party.

“Many of us are getting sick of that,” Phillips said.

Pelosi, along with her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, has stressed publicly and privately for weeks the need for Democrats to remain united if and when any negotiations recommence. She made clear, in a letter

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Court denies Gloucester School Board’s effort to appeal ruling declaring bathroom ban unconsitutional in Grimm case

GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) — An effort by the Gloucester County School Board to appeal a ruling declaring its bathroom policy for transgender students unconstitutional has been denied.

Earlier this month, the school board filed a petition asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear its case against former student Gavin Grimm.

That request was denied, according to a tweet from the ACLU of Virginia.

“Discrimination against trans students is discrimination on the basis of sex and it’s illegal. Full stop,” the ACLU tweeted.

The school board announced Sept. 9 it had requested an en banc review in the Richmond-based United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The request would have meant the full circuit court of appeals — all the judges — would have heard the case and could potentially overturned the previous ruling by a three-judge panel.

The three-judge panel had ruled that the school division’s requirements that Grimm use restrooms for his biological sex, female, or private bathrooms violated his rights. Grimm began transitioning from female to male while at Gloucester High School. In 2016, as a senior in high school, he legally changed his sex to male via state court order and on his birth certificate.

The panel’s decision upheld a previous one from a federal judge in Norfolk. That judge ruled in 2019 that Grimm’s rights were violated under the Constitution’s equal protection clause as well as under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.


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House approves spending bill in effort to avoid government shutdown during pandemic

The House easily passed a temporary government-wide funding bill Tuesday evening in a bipartisan effort to keep the government running through the beginning of December.

The House voted 359-57 to approve the stop gap measure that will keep the government open through December 11. 56 Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich. voted against the measure, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., voted present.

Agreement on the bill came after considerable behind-the-scenes battling over proposed add-ons. The final agreement gives the administration continued immediate authority to dole out Agriculture Department subsidies in the run-up to Election Day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., retreated from an initial draft that sparked a furor with Republicans and farm-state Democrats.

Instead, in talks Tuesday, Pelosi restored a farm aid funding patch sought by the administration, which has sparked the ire of Democrats who said it plays political favorites as it gives out bailout money to farmers and ranchers.

MNUCHIN, PELOSI HAVE ‘INFORMAL AGREEMENT’ TO GO FORWARD WITH GOVERNMENT FUNDING PACKAGE, SOURCE SAYS

In return, Pelosi won COVID-related food aid for the poor, including a higher food benefit for families whose children are unable to receive free or reduced lunches because schools are closed over the coronavirus. Another add-on would permit states to remove hurdles to food stamps and nutrition aid to low-income mothers that are more difficult to clear during the pandemic.

The deal permitted the measure to speed through the House after a swift debate that should ensure smooth sailing in the GOP-held Senate before next Wednesday’s deadline. There’s no appetite on either side for a government shutdown.

The measure is the bare minimum accomplishment for Capitol Hill’s powerful Appropriations committees, who pride themselves on their deal-making abilities despite gridlock in other corners of Congress. It came after bipartisan negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief package imploded and appear unlikely to be rekindled — especially since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has upended U.S. politics.

“We need to keep the government open but we also need additional COVID relief for the American people,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

GOP-LED SENATE EYEING NEW ‘TARGETED’ COVID BILL 

The legislation — called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak — would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past an election that could reshuffle Washington’s balance of power.

The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs, such as a provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.

It also finances the possible transition to a new administration if Joe Biden wins the White House and would stave off an unwelcome COVID-caused increase in Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient doctor visits.

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The underlying stopgap measure deals with the 30% of the federal government’s day-to-day

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