Democrats postpone House vote on COVID-19 stimulus bill to give more time for negotiations

WASHINGTON — House Democrats postponed a vote Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill in the hopes a deal could be reached as negotiations drag on with the White House on a plan to help Americans struggling from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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The vote was postponed until Thursday to allow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House negotiators more time to discuss a potential bipartisan deal, said a Democratic aide, who was unable to discuss internal deliberations publicly. 

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met at the Capitol Wednesday for their first in-person negotiations since August. The two sides have been at an impasse for months over the size and scope of a COVID-19 relief bill, but rank-and-file members have pressured congressional leaders to get some sort of relief deal done by Election Day. 



Nancy Pelosi wearing a costume: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.


© Jose Luis Magana, AP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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“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 said Wednesday. 

The House measure is a pared-down version of the legislation passed by House Democrats in May. It’s expected to pass the House, but will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have balked at a higher price tag for more relief.

House Democrats unveiled their proposal Monday, though House Republicans panned the bill as a “socialist wish list” and said they would oppose it. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Wednesday it would be “outlandish”  to think Republicans would be on board with a $2 trillion bill, though he said he and other Republicans want to see relief for Americans.

“I mean we had 52 out of 53 republicans willing to spend roughly a half a trillion dollars,” McConnell added of a scaled-down $300 billion bill that was blocked in the Senate. “The thought that Senate Republicans would go up to 2.2 trillion is outlandish.” 

Pelosi said the vote, which was originally planned for Wednesday night, would “formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations.”

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Asked if he would be able to negotiate a deal over $1.5 trillion, Mnuchin said, “We’re going to go back and do a little more work again.”

Many of the benefits Congress approved in the Spring to fight the economic impact of the virus have run out. The $600 federal boost to unemployment benefits halted in July,

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House leaders postpone vote on stopgap funding bill

Democrats had balked at a push by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to pump more than $20 billion into Commodity Credit Corporation funding to make more payments to farmers and ranchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said the farm money has been used as a “slush fund” for favored political interests. Democrats stripped the money out of the resolution that was introduced Monday, along with $2.7 billion for a program designed to provide subsidized meals to children who normally receive them when schools are open.

Republicans objected to the decision to strip the funding. Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that Democrats were “abandoning farmers” by denying them the payments.

The House Agriculture Committee’s top Republican, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, tried to offer an amendment that would restore both the farm payments and the school nutrition program extension, but Democrats on the Rules Committee blocked it.

The minority is offering a motion to recommit during floor debate, however, which if adopted would add provisions included in the motion to the underlying bill as if it were a regular amendment. Republicans weren’t saying what their motion would entail, but the Conaway amendment or something like it would be eligible.

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House Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill

House Democratic leaders are postponing a planned vote next week on legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level following concerns from moderates reluctant to take up the measure before any coronavirus relief package.  

Leadership indicated to Democrats that the previously planned vote would be delayed, according to two lawmakers. 

Centrist Democrats who have been agitating for action on coronavirus relief after months of stalled negotiations had expressed concern about taking a vote on marijuana legalization before work on what they see as must-pass legislation is completed.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerAttacks against the police are organized and violent This week: House returns for pre-election sprint Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns MORE (D-N.Y.), the bill’s sponsor, suggested the vote could be put off until after the November elections. 

“It might get postponed to the lame-duck [session],” Nadler said. 

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Pence lauds Harris as ‘experienced debater’; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Coons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware MORE (D-Md.) also notably left the marijuana legislation off the announced floor schedule for next week.

While moderate lawmakers had pushed for postponing the vote, progressives expressed frustration with holding off on passing a historic marijuana legalization bill that is a major part of liberals’ racial justice efforts. 

“I feel like the impulse to delay the expungement of people’s records is a fear-based response to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally MORE [R-Ky.] and the Republican Party. And I personally don’t think that we should be governing that way. I don’t think that when Democrats have power, like a House majority, that we should be drafting our agenda based out of fear of Republicans,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum The Memo: 2020 is all about winning Florida MORE (D-N.Y.).

Ocasio-Cortez also questioned why moderates would push for delaying the marijuana legalization legislation when the House is still voting on other bills before taking up any additional COVID-19 relief.  

“We already had a COVID vote. If the argument is that we should not be voting on legislation because we haven’t voted on COVID yet, then why are we voting on anything? Why is it that the one racial justice bill

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Minnesota DFLers postpone fundraiser after backlash over Hugo protest

Minnesota House Democrats indefinitely postponed a fundraiser featuring a dozen DFL candidates after an influential law enforcement group voiced concerns about including a St. Paul Democrat whose actions and statements at a protest in Hugo sparked backlash.

The head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, in a letter to House Speaker Melissa Hortman, expressed “deep frustration” that John Thompson, an activist running for a St. Paul House seat, was invited to participate in the fundraiser.

Thompson, the endorsed DFL candidate for a St. Paul House seat, has faced intense criticism for a profanity-laced appearance at a Black Lives Matter protest outside the home of Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll. Video of the event captured Thompson and others beating piñata effigies of Kroll and his wife, a Twin Cities journalist.

“This is violent and outrageous behavior — and not just rhetoric — specifically against a police officer and his family,” MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters wrote. “Anyone — including candidates for office — that supports Thompson’s candidacy to the [Minnesota House of Representatives] cannot be considered a supporter of law enforcement.”

Hortman’s initial response to MPPOA Monday evening suggested she planned to continue with the fundraiser. In a letter, the Brooklyn Park Democrat noted that Thompson apologized and has faced death threats in the wake of the incident.

“I have accepted his apology and will be working alongside him in future legislative sessions to improve the state,” she wrote.

But later Monday, the DFL Caucus reversed course and canceled the event via an e-mail to supporters.

In a statement about the decision released Tuesday, Hortman urged all Minnesotans to “come together to heal our state.”

“We understand that proceeding with the fundraiser would have conveyed to some that we condoned the conduct in Hugo. We do not,” she said. “This is a time to move forward from conflict and division.”

 

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