Pelosi eyes possible U.S. House role in calling presidential election

By David Morgan

Nancy Pelosi wearing a purple shirt: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rallying Democrats to prepare for a once-in-a-century election scenario requiring Congress to decide the outcome of the presidential race if neither Democrat Joe Biden nor President Donald Trump wins outright.


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In a campaign letter to colleagues, Pelosi told her fellow House Democrats that recent comments by Trump demonstrate that he could ask the House to decide the race if it is not clear which of the two candidates had received the minimum 270 Electoral College votes in the Nov. 3 presidential election needed to gain office.

Trump repeatedly has questioned the security of mail-in ballots, which could take a while to tabulate given the high number of voters likely to use them this year due to the pandemic.

Democrats fear that the president could attempt to have the count of those votes cut short in an attempt to have the election outcome determined by the House. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House would vote by state delegation to settle such a contest, with each state casting a single vote. While Democrats control the chamber by 232 seats to 198, Republicans control a majority of 26 state delegations versus 22 for Democrats. Pennsylvania’s delegation is tied, while Michigan has a 7-6 split between Democrats and Republicans and an additional seat held by a Libertarian.

The House has not determined the outcome of a presidential election since 1876.

Pelosi called on Democrats for “an all out effort” to capture additional Republican-held House seats, which they might need if a decision on the presidential election spills over into next year. She also urged Democrats to marshal resources to support the House Majority PAC, a political action committee committed to promoting Democratic candidates for the House.

“Because we cannot leave anything to chance, House Majority PAC is doing everything it can to win more delegations for Democrats,” Pelosi wrote.

Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House Republican Conference, responded to Pelosi’s letter by saying the speaker was trying to divert attention away from the lack of progress on COVID-19 stimulus legislation.

“It’s a dereliction of her duty as speaker, so it’s no surprise she is trying to get her caucus focused on something else,” Cheney said in a statement to Reuters.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a $3.4 trillion coronavirus aid package in May that went nowhere in the Republican-led Senate. Negotiations between Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and administration officials, aimed at hammering out a bipartisan deal, have been stalled since early August.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Heavey; editing by Richard Cowan, Alistair Bell and Bill Berkrot)

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Look back at Obama and Reagan through the eyes of their White House photographer

The new documentary The Way I See It looks at former presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan through the eyes of Pete Souza. During his time as an official White House photographer, Souza captured the profound, intimate, funny and dignified moments of two of the most iconic presidents in modern history. The Way I See It is directed by Dawn Porter, who also made the wonderful and inspiring documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Dawn Porter's new documentary, The Way I See It, looks at the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Regan through the eyes of official White House photographer Pete Souza (seen holding a camera). Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Dawn Porter’s new documentary, The Way I See It, looks at the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Regan through the eyes of official White House photographer Pete Souza (seen holding a camera). Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pete Souza wearing a suit and tie: Dawn Porter's new documentary The Way I See It sees the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Regan through the eyes of official White House photographer Pete Souza (seen holding a camera).

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Dawn Porter’s new documentary The Way I See It sees the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Regan through the eyes of official White House photographer Pete Souza (seen holding a camera).

Both Porter and Souza were my guests on CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast. During our conversation, Porter explained why she was compelled by Souza and his perspective working for Regan and Obama. When Souza started photographing Obama, the future president was still a senator.


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“He [Souza] was thinking, ‘Who is this man?'” said Porter. “And that’s what I was thinking about with Pete. How did he come to be? What has influenced Pete?”

Since hanging up his White House camera, Souza, as his Instagram profile states, has become a citizen of Earth. Over the last three years, the former photojournalist gained attention for having his own opinions about the current occupant of the White House. He registered his distaste as only a photographer can, by posting photos as a juxtaposition. The idea wasn’t to be political but to remind the world of the dignity and empathy needed to be the president.

“I had a unique voice having worked for not only a Republican and a Democratic president, but what’s arguably the most iconic Republican president and the most iconic Democratic president of certainly my generation. I could come at this with a nonpartisan view that this wasn’t because Donald Trump’s a Republican. It had nothing to do with it. He was not fit for office,” said Souza. “For three years, we saw what it means to have someone who’s ill-prepared and is not empathetic. What it means when you’re faced with a global pandemic and trying to bluff your way through it. Tying to do everything that makes you look good, and not what’s best for the country. So it wasn’t really that difficult decision for me to make to start speaking out.”

Over a lively 30 minutes, Porter and Souza discuss why empathy is important for a leader to have, the passing of John Lewis, the significance of professional athletes protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake and what it’s like having Obama officiate your wedding.

Listen to my entire conversation with Porter and Souza on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. The Way I See It opens Friday in

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White House eyes executive action to keep unemployment benefits flowing

The White House is considering executive action to provide more money for unemployment benefits, following the exhaustion of funds made available by President Trump’s previous administrative maneuvering.

“We’re looking at all possible avenues to continue giving relief to Americans from an executive standpoint, in lieu of Democrats agreeing to a legislative deal,” said Ben Williamson, a senior adviser for Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.

Trump, through a memorandum in August, made available up to $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to workers sidelined by the pandemic in the form of a $300-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits, to be matched by $100 from state governments. The additional jobless aid is known as Lost Wages Assistance.

Over $30 billion of those dollars have already been distributed. With money running low, the agency has said that total funding will be limited to six weeks, in total, for every state that has applied so far, a spokesman told the Washington Examiner. The administration has had to start cutting off certain states, including Texas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, and New Hampshire.

The impetus behind Trump’s executive order on the enhanced payment was Congress’s inability to extend added unemployment benefits, which had been enacted in the March CARES Act at a rate of $600 a week. The program has been expired for over a month. Lawmakers in both parties support extending the enhanced benefit, but they have so far failed to agree on a dollar amount for the payment.

The White House is considering using an executive order to authorize FEMA to provide more assistance to states by making additional funds available to them through the $300-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits, a former senior administration official said. This would allow more FEMA funds to be used after the current $44 billion is exhausted.

There is a fear, however, of overusing FEMA’s funds and leaving the agency vulnerable as it deals with hurricane season as well as the wildfires on the West Coast.

“I take what the administration is doing as a good-faith effort to give assistance to people who haven’t had work for many weeks,” said Matt Weidinger, a fellow who focuses on unemployment and poverty at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

“I’m sure every unemployed person would like to keep getting an additional $300 every week,” Weidinger said.

He said, however, that any potential executive actions to provide more unemployment aid could affect the incentives to return to work and would add to the debt in a harmful manner.

Until the $44 billion in additional unemployment aid is exhausted, FEMA will continue working with states to provide jobless help.

“On August 8, President Trump took decisive and unprecedented action to help unemployed Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” FEMA press secretary Lizzie Litzow told the Washington Examiner. “FEMA continues to work with states and territories to fulfill their requests for six weeks of Lost Wages Assistance.”

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U.S. airlines turn eyes to expected new House coronavirus relief proposal

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. airline unions expressed hope on Thursday that Congress could strike a deal in the coming days that would provide $25 billion to prevent tens of thousands of furloughs on Oct. 1 after the U.S. Treasury chief said he could not act unilaterally to save airline jobs.

A new Democratic-proposed House bill is expected to provide $2.4 trillion in coronavirus relief that would include funds for airlines and restaurants, a congressional aide said, down from $3.4 trillion approved in May. That figure is still far above the $300 billion Senate Republicans backed earlier this month.

While the White House has repeatedly said it would seek executive action to help airlines if Congress failed to pass a deal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Thursday he cannot tap unused coronavirus lending authority to provide cash grants to airlines.

“Is there anything that you have under existing authorities, either the CARES act authorities, or prior law, that could help the airlines avoid these coming layoffs?” Republican Senator Tom Cotton asked Mnuchin.

“Unfortunately there is not,” Mnuchin said. He added the funding from Congress approved in March “literally saved the entire industry.”

Many congressional aides and some airlines are pessimistic about the prospects of a new bailout.

Some lawmakers are pushing for a deal before Oct. 1, when airlines are set to furlough tens of thousands of workers if they do not secure additional payroll support.

International President of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson said labor’s pressure on lawmakers was having an impact.

“We are seeing that this is moving us to a full relief bill,” Nelson said over Facebook Live.

An initial $25 billion in payroll assistance under the CARES Act approved in March required no layoffs by airlines through Sept. 30, but with industry continuing to struggle, airlines are pleading with Congress for more money.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, sought to fast-track legislation for a fresh $25.5 billion in airline bailout funds to avoid layoffs for another six months, but it failed to move forward after some senators raised objections.

American Airlines said it would furlough some 19,000 workers on Oct. 1 without fresh aid and halt service to 15 smaller airports.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are delaying the furlough date for their pilots by a month as they try to strike new agreements and await developments in Washington.

Treasury has a separate $25 billion loan fund for passenger airlines, but not all airlines are tapping it.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski, editing by Timothy Gardner)

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House eyes vote on stopgap spending bill next week

The House could vote on a stopgap spending bill next week to give the Senate plenty of time to approve the measure before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

“I want to put it on the floor next week,” Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “I want to give the Senate at least a week to pass it. I want to make sure government doesn’t shut down.”

That gives congressional leaders and the White House just a few days to wrap up negotiations on details of the continuing resolution, which is needed to avert a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1. None of the dozen fiscal 2021 appropriations bills have yet become law.

Hoyer’s timeline makes sense given a truncated congressional schedule the following week in the run-up to the shutdown deadline. The House and Senate are each out of session for the Yom Kippur holiday on Monday, Sept. 28, with the House returning only at 6:30 p.m. for votes that following Tuesday. The Senate is not back until Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House earlier Monday that negotiators were trying to wrap up talks this week on the stopgap measure. He and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., previously agreed to keep the CR clean of contentious riders, including coronavirus aid provisions.

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White House eyes veteran antitrust lawyer for chief FTC post

Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, spoke with Arquit about the FTC role, both people said. They spoke anonymously to speak candidly about the private interview process. White House officials have also spoken to Gail Slater, a lawyer for Fox Corp. who previously worked at both the FTC and the White House as an adviser on tech, telecom and cyber policy.

The White House would not comment on the record, but a senior administration official told POLITICO in a statement: “There are no ongoing interviews for FTC chairman.”

Despite the Trump administration’s ongoing investigations into Silicon Valley companies, Arquit has previously cautioned against some of the rhetoric around breaking up tech giants, singling out the primary campaign calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last year.

“This is really an assault on our free enterprise system,” the longtime antitrust lawyer said in a Bloomberg TV interview last year. “To me, this proposal, it’s anti-worker, it’s anti-community and it’s also anti-consumer.”

These government probes create a significant “cloud” over the tech companies, he told CNBC in the summer of 2019, calling the scrutiny an “elephant in the room” chilling their behavior. Months later during another conversation, he described the FTC investigation into Amazon’s practices as “broad” and “proactive.” In these TV appearances, he has also defended the case behind T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, a game-changing transaction in the U.S. wireless market that officially closed this year.

Arquit served as the FTC’s general counsel and top competition staffer during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. In private practice, he has represented dozens of companies in mergers and civil antitrust matters including DirecTV in its merger with AT&T, Office Depot in its tie-up with Office Max and Pilgrim’s Pride in antitrust suits over alleged price-fixing of broiler chickens.

Arquit’s law firm colleague, Marc Kasowitz, served as Trump’s personal lawyer for more than 15 years and ran the president’s legal strategy for a brief time in 2017 as he was in the early stages of the Russia investigation. The legal strategy then was taken over by Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer at the time, and Washington attorney John Dowd.

Earlier this year, Arquit served as the arbitrator in the Justice Department’s first ever arbitration over the proposed merger of Novelis, the world’s largest aluminum recycler, and rival aluminum company Aleris. Arquit sided with the DOJ, and Novelis — the largest U.S. producer of aluminum used in cars — agreed to sell off a plant in Kentucky to finalize the deal.

Arquit didn’t respond to calls and e-mails for comment.

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This company by husband-wife duo is redefining luxury interior design for clients; eyes Rs 100 Cr turnover thi

The economic reforms of 1991 opened the Indian economy to the global business for the first time. The year was also tumultuous as it saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event that caused great economic stress to the Russian business ecosystem.

Around the same time, in 1993, Hardesh Chawla was in Russia running a financial services business in Moscow. As the economic unrest grew due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, people started selling their assets in Russia. Hardesh saw that some real estate structures, though in dilapidated conditions, were being sold for lesser price. He started buying those buildings and renting them out. 

Hardesh’s wife Monica Chawla had a bent towards interior design and would add her inputs before renting out the house. When they started receiving positive feedback from their tenants about the design, they decided to translate this into a business opportunity.

Hardesh and Monica started Essentia Environments, a luxury interior design firm, in the year 1999. The company is an end-to-end solutions provider for building luxury properties offering services such as architecture, interior designing, manufacturing furniture, setting up the decor, etc. The husband-wife duo returned to India in 2003 and set up their office in Gurugram.

The company claims to have completed over 1000 projects in India, Russia, and the UAE in the past two decades, and counts DLF, Dasnac, Magnum, Porsche, and others as its clients. The company is looking to cross a turnover of Rs 100 crore this year.

Essentia Environments

Essentia Environments Team

The journey

Hardesh says there was no tipping point in their journey. One thing kept leading to another and before they knew, the design firm was ready. He says that his wife’s strength was in design whereas he found his strength in identifying the business opportunity and then capitalising on it.

As the years before founding the company were so turbulent in Russia, everything became easier for them to handle after returning to India. 

“Nothing surprises us anymore,” he says.

Talking about the difference between the Russian and the Indian business ecosystem, Hardesh points that India has evolved enormously over the years and the ease of doing business is greater. “Russia, unfortunately, hasn’t seen that kind of evolution,” he adds.

Additionally, a survey done by PwC Russia revealed that more than 50 percent of Russia’s corporate community believes that doing business in the country is more complicated today than it was during the 1990s.

Essentia Environments

Property designed by Essentia Environments

The business

When it comes to designing houses, the Essentia team does a thorough research, taking inputs from all family members. When they have everyone’s expectations, choices, and tastes in place, the team starts working together to create designs, architecture, fabrics, and furniture. 

A lot of items like precious stones, leather, and some fabrics are imported, but the furniture is manufactured in India in their Manesar unit. The company also creates picture quality 3D renders before the actual work starts so that any discrepancy in the design can be

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