U.S. House passes Democratic COVID-19 aid plan after bipartisan deal proves elusive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $2.2 trillion Democratic plan to provide more economic relief from the coronavirus pandemic, as a bipartisan deal continued to elude House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House.

Objections from top Republicans are likely to doom the House Democrats’ plan in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the $2.2 trillion price tag “outlandish,” although Democrats have reduced the cost of their proposal by over a trillion dollars since May. The House vote was 214-207.

No Republican voted for the Democratic plan, although 18 Democrats voted no, many of them moderates from swing districts who have been urging Pelosi to bring a bipartisan proposal to the House floor.

“Today’s package is another partisan exercise that will never become law,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, one of the Democrats who voted no, said.

Republican President Donald Trump’s negotiating team has suggested a $1.6 trillion response, and the White House on Thursday dismissed Democrats’ $2.2 trillion plan as not serious.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have talked every day this week, including a 50-minute phone call Thursday, in an effort to negotiate a bipartisan aid package to respond to the economic fallout from a pandemic that has killed more than 207,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

Congress and the White House approved more than $3 trillion worth of coronavirus relief measures earlier this year, but Mnuchin, as well as members of Congress from both parties, have argued more stimulus is needed.

Asked if there would be a resolution to her negotiations with the administration on Thursday evening, Pelosi told reporters, “No.” She gave no details of their talks but said: “Even if we came to some agreement, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. It’s the language.”

In the absence of a deal with the White House, and with lawmakers preparing to leave Washington for the remaining weeks of the 2020 presidential and congressional campaign, the Democratic-majority House went ahead and passed the Democrats’ proposal.

“Frankly if we had reached a bipartisan agreement…we wouldn’t have this bill on the floor,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “But we also want to let the American people know where we stand.”

Pelosi and Mnuchin differed over aid to state and local governments, Democratic demands for a child tax credit and stronger worker safety protections, healthcare provisions and help for small businesses.

After Pelosi and Mnuchin’s phone call Thursday afternoon, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter: “The two discussed further clarifications on amounts and language, but distance on key areas remain.”

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany dismissed the Democratic proposal as “not a serious offer.”

Pelosi said of the White House proposal on Bloomberg TV: “This isn’t half a loaf. What they’re offering is the heel of the loaf.”

Republican Senator Mike Braun told CNBC on Thursday that a deal worth over $1.6 trillion could be rejected by one-third

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2020 hunting scorecard for Alaska’s Interior: Nelchina caribou are elusive, Unit 13B moose are scarce

Moose season has passed. My impression is that the success rate, at least along the northern highway system, was lower than normal.

I saw a few moose racks here and there while I was traveling the Richardson Highway, but when considering the number of hunters, it wasn’t much. The word from the Nabesna area was much the same.

Caribou reports were different. The Forty-mile herd was along both the Steese and the Elliott Highways. Hunter success was good and the hunts achieved the harvest quotas in a short time.

The Nelchina hunt is working out quite differently. The herd is nowhere near the road system. Caribou are being taken here and there, but not in numbers.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game extended the early season for 10 days in an effort to increase harvest. It does not look promising. Last year the herd moved in a rush, crossing the Richardson Highway during the three-week October closure. Given the inclement weather, the same scenario could play out this season as well.

Ptarmigan and waterfowl have also been a bust along the Denali Highway and the Richardson.

A few birds were taken along the roads. Rain made for tough hunting conditions. A good dog was a necessity.

The ptarmigan chicks were small, due to a failed first hatch. The rain that was hard on the first chicks has continued and has also affected the second brood. There were birds along the Denali Highway early in the season, but those seem to have been shot out by excessive numbers of hunters.

There are still plenty of cranes migrating through Delta Junction. Some fields have standing oats, and that will hold birds awhile longer. Waterfowlers who have hunted Delta for a number of years tell me there are fewer cranes than last year. That may be the case, though I can’t verify it.

Sharp-tailed grouse and spruce grouse must have had a poor hatch also. The few I have seen are pairs and singles. The area around Sourdough is normally good for spruce chickens, but not this season. Late September is when these birds switch their diet from berries to spruce needles, and they are not so tasty by the last week of the month.

Sharptails are tough to find in the Delta Junction area. I have heard reports of a few on the edges of the Delta barley fields, though not enough to reliably hunt. A five-mile hike with a dog last week only jumped a single bird.

The game animals we normally focus on all seem to be light in the area around the Alaska Range. It could be due to last winter’s heavy snowfall and corresponding late spring. Or the growing number of hunters over the past years may be having an effect, especially on moose near the road systems.

The caribou herd is in decent shape, according to Fish and Game, they are just not very accessible thus far this season. How calving went, due to the late

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