Proposal to hasten herd immunity to the coronavirus grabs White House attention but appalls top scientists

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of covid-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump still urged the public, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call Focused Protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford Medical School.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors argue that their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other recommendations pushed by most government and scientific experts.

The authors contend that permitting the virus to spread naturally among young people — who are much less likely than their elders to have a severe outcome — will shorten the pandemic by hastening the arrival of herd immunity, the point at which there’s enough immunity in the general population to prevent the virus from spreading at epidemic rates.

“The most compassionate approach that

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Americans’ ‘needs are not addressed in the President’s proposal’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday slammed the White House’s most recent stimulus proposal as ignoring key economic issues wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, defending her decision to turn down what she described as a political stunt that would fail to help the public.



Wolf Blitzer, Nancy Pelosi are posing for a picture


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“All of my colleagues — we represent these people, I have for over 30 years represented my constituents,” Pelosi told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “I know what their needs are, I listen to them, and their needs are not addressed in the President’s proposal.”

When asked whether she could avoid letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, Pelosi replied, “I will not let the wrong be the enemy of the right.”

Pelosi’s comments come after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Senate Republicans will attempt to move forward on a “targeted” coronavirus relief bill when the Senate returns to session next week — a sign that prospects for broad stimulus agreement have all but faded before Election Day.

Despite the urgency expressed throughout the country, the negotiations have only appeared to get further away from a resolution in recent days — and significantly more confusing. While President Donald Trump offered a momentary boost to the prospects of an agreement last week when he called for a “big” deal and proposed a $1.8 trillion offer, Pelosi has rejected the effort as insufficient on several major fronts and the talks are once again stuck without a clear path forward.

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Pelosi dismissed Blitzer’s references to other Democrats calling for a relief bill — such as California Rep. Ro Khanna warning that people can not wait for aid until February, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang saying that there was some good in the Republicans’ offer and the Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposal.

While the two men are “lovely,” Pelosi said, “they know nothing about” the specifics of the White House’s proposals and “they are not negotiating this situation — they have no idea of the particulars, they have no idea of what the language is here.”

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus “don’t have any earned income tax credit or child tax credit in their proposal, either,” like the White House proposal, she added.

“With all due respect to the kind of people you were referencing — and I welcome their enthusiasm, I welcome their interests, I welcome their originality of their thinking,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is we have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people in a retroactive way so they are not at a total loss.”

“Nobody is waiting until February — I want this very much now, because people need help now,” Pelosi said. “But it’s no use giving them a false thing just because the President wants to put a check with his

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Proposal to hasten herd immunity grabs White House attention, appalls top scientists

WASHINGTON — Maverick scientists who call for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at “natural” rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running have found an audience inside the White House and at least one state capitol.

The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has emerged as an influential adviser to President Donald Trump on the pandemic.

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of COVID-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call focused protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford University’s medical school.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors say their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other

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Sky Garden tower proposal would soar above Hamilton’s CBD offering views up and down the Waikato River

Move over Auckland, Hamilton could be moving in on the tower-in-the-CBD market.

That’s the lofty goal developer John Heskett is reaching for in his third attempt to build a major tourism project in Waikato.

It’d be based around a 100-metre-high timber tower, the highest building in the heart of Hamilton’s CBD, next to the Waikato Museum on Victoria St.

Developer John Heskett is in the concept phase of a plan to bring the Sky Garden tourism project to Hamilton.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

Developer John Heskett is in the concept phase of a plan to bring the Sky Garden tourism project to Hamilton.

It would feature a bungy and slide off the tower with a swing over the neighbouring Waikato River.

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Concept drawing of the Sky Garden tourism tower when it was proposed for Hangatiki, Waitomo. The project will be redesigned to fit into Hamilton’s CBD.

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Concept drawing of the Sky Garden tourism tower when it was proposed for Hangatiki, Waitomo. The project will be redesigned to fit into Hamilton’s CBD.

At the top there would be a viewing platform, restaurants, cafes and a cocktail bar. The roof would be used as a green space with a garden, lawn and mini golf course for families.

The project is still in the concept phase and would need further feedback from the Hamilton City Council, community and iwi.

It would not be a carbon copy of the $20 million Sky Garden plan for Hangatiki, near Waitomo Village, which was declined in July. Nor would it look like the first version promoted closer to Te Kūiti.

The Waitomo version was 70m high.

“We need to redesign it for Hamilton, to make it taller, but it will still be built out of timber and have the tower as its centre piece,” Heskett said.

John Heskett said the revised Sky Garden project for Hamilton is in its early stages of planning but could cost between $20m-$30m.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

John Heskett said the revised Sky Garden project for Hamilton is in its early stages of planning but could cost between $20m-$30m.

He initially looked at a site near Horotiu, north of the city. The council also suggested Victoria St as an option.

“There is the Waikato Regional Theatre being built nearby in the CBD and bringing the Sky Garden into the heart of the city could be a good fit.”

Heskett said he was compelled to continue finding a home for the project after numerous calls of support, after the Waitomo proposal was declined in July.

“I’ve lost count of how many offers of other sites I’ve had, people want to see it become reality.

“Raising capital for this [Hamilton] project has been the easiest of the three, we’ve got $500,000 ready for a new consent.”

The project’s inability to mitigate cultural aspects was the stumbling block at Waitomo.

“So I am meeting with my cultural adviser this week and one of the first conversations will be with iwi, to check that the site is okay to use.

“We want to put a swing over the Waikato River but we know the river is special to iwi, so we need to consult on that concept first.”

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Senate Republicans will ‘go along with’ White House stimulus proposal despite their pushback

President Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Sunday that Senate Republicans will “go along with” the $1.8 trillion White House stimulus proposal despite their vocal pushback.



Lawrence Kudlow wearing a suit and tie: Trump economic adviser: Senate Republicans will 'go along with' White House stimulus proposal despite their pushback


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Trump economic adviser: Senate Republicans will ‘go along with’ White House stimulus proposal despite their pushback

Kudlow told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the White House expects GOP support from Republicans in the upper chamber. A source told The Hill on Saturday that several senators expressed “significant concerns” about the proposal’s cost in a call with administration officials.

The White House economic adviser said on Sunday he does not think the coronavirus stimulus bill is “dead.”

“Don’t forget, Republicans in the Senate put up their own bill a few weeks ago and got 53 votes, I think it was, so they united,” he said. “I think if an agreement can be reached, they will go along with it.”

Kudlow also criticized Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for their “intransigence” over funding unemployment assistance, small business loans and stimulus checks in individual bills or an overall bill.

“Well, I’m not talking about your Democratic friends,” CNN host Jake Tapper pushed back. “I’m talking about 20 Senate Republicans who were mad at Secretary Mnuchin and saying that the proposal of $1.8 trillion was way too much.”

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The White House economic adviser noted the president would “go beyond” the cost of the current proposal to fund assistance for unemployed people, small business loans and stimulus checks.

“I think if we could get this thing settled on the Democrat side, we will get it settled on the Republican side,” he said. “There will still be further efforts of negotiation perhaps today but certainly this coming week.”

“The D’s are holding this thing up,” he added.

Kudlow also told CNN that he doesn’t think the economic “recovery” in the U.S. “is dependent on” a stimulus bill.

When Tapper said the Federal Reserve chairman disagreed, Kudlow said he’s “essentially saying the same thing – targeted assistance would be a good idea.”

Kudlow’s remarks come after the White House proposed a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package, a higher amount than the $1.6 trillion offered last week and rejected by Pelosi and Democrats.

Several Senate Republicans blasted the proposal in a call with White House officials, with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) labeling it a “death knell” for the GOP ahead of the elections

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Senate Republicans rip new White House coronavirus proposal

Senate Republicans on Saturday offered fierce pushback against the administration’s latest coronavirus relief proposal during a call with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks | Trump proposes .8T coronavirus relief package | Vegas ties helped Trump score M windfall in 2016 Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks SBA simplifies PPP forgiveness for small loans MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump campaigns on Rush Limbaugh show l Democrats question Trump’s mental fitness l Coronavirus stimulus in doubt before election Debate commission co-chair: ‘No evidence whatsoever’ Trump has tested negative The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Dems ruffle feathers with POTUS fitness bill MORE.

Senate Republicans raised concerns about the $1.8 trillion price tag of the White House’s latest offer to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLoeffler unveils resolution condemning Pelosi for comments on 25th Amendment On The Money: Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks | Trump proposes .8T coronavirus relief package | Vegas ties helped Trump score M windfall in 2016 Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks MORE (D-Calif.), multiple sources familiar with the call told The Hill.

One source familiar with the call said that there were “significant concerns raised with the price tag.”

“There’s an openness to continue negotiating, but the current topline is an obstacle,” the source added.

Concerns about the White House’s offer came from across the conference, underscoring the work the White House and Trump face to get any potential deal across the finish line in the GOP-controlled Senate even as the president has publicly urged negotiators to “go big.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThis week: Coronavirus complicates Senate’s Supreme Court fight Poll finds support for independent arbiters resolving ‘surprise’ medical bills Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee discusses working-class background MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate’s Health Committee, told Meadows and Mnuchin that there was “no appetite” within the Senate Republican conference for a $1.8 trillion bill, a second person briefed on the call told The Hill. Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus Netflix distances from author’s comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (R-Tenn.) warned that it could be a “death knell” for the party in November and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told Meadows and Mnuchin “I don’t get it.”

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Cruz says he raised concerns with Trump over Gorsuch and Kavanaugh before nominations Deadline accidentally publishes story about Pence being diagnosed with COVID-19 MORE (R-Utah), who recently tested positive for the coronavirus, also expressed concern that it would cost the party support in the election and would take the focus off of the caucus’s top priority: confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

In response

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Pelosi says White House proposal on COVID-19 relief is “one step forward, two steps back”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that there has been limited progress in negotiations with the White House over a coronavirus relief package, saying in a letter to her Democratic colleagues that a proposal presented by the Trump administration on Friday amounted to “one step forward, two steps back.”

“When the president talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” Pelosi wrote. “At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that President Trump had “approved” a “revised” coronavirus relief package, although he did not offer specifics. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mr. Trump slammed the door shut on a deal before the election, but then appeared to change his mind, first calling on the House to pass standalone relief bills and then indicating that he would support a large relief package. In a tweet on Friday morning, the president said, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

In her letter to colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said the plan produced by the administration does not include “a strategic plan to crush the virus.” She compared it to the HEROES Act which the House passed last month, which provides a national regimen on testing and tracing.

The $2.4 trillion relief bill would also restore a popular benefit providing an additional $600 per week on top of unemployment benefits, deliver another round of direct payments and provide funding for schools and state and local jurisdiction. The legislation was a slimmed-down version of a $3.4 trillion bill the House initially passed in May.

“At this point, the Trump proposal is insufficient in meeting families’ needs, in stark contrast to the Heroes Act, which secured tens of billions for direct relief and refundable credits,” Pelosi said in her letter. She said the Trump administration proposal would differ from the HEROES Act by eliminating the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and child dependent care tax credit. The Democratic proposal would also include $57 billion for child care, while the White House plan only offers $25 billion.

Pelosi also slammed the administration for including a tax benefit that she said would benefit the wealthy, and offering $200 billion less than the Democratic proposal in unemployment benefits.

Nonetheless, Pelosi indicated she would like negotiations to continue.

“Despite these unaddressed concerns, I remain hopeful that yesterday’s developments will move us closer to an agreement on a relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis facing America’s families,” Pelosi said.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cast doubt on a potential deal, saying Friday he believed “the situation is kind of murky.”

“I’d like to see us rise above that like

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White House Preparing New $1.8 Trillion Stimulus Proposal

White House adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that President Trump had approved moving ahead with a revised stimulus offer.



Photo:

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Breaking News:

*White House Preparing New $1.8 Trillion Stimulus Proposal—Sources

*Last White House Offer Was $1.6 Trillion

(Article below will update)

The White House is preparing a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief offer, its largest proposal to date in the long running negotiations with congressional Democrats, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to discuss a new $1.8 trillion proposal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) when the two speak Friday. The White House proposal marks a further winnowing of the distance between the administration and Democratic leaders over the bill’s overall price tag.

“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” President Trump said in a tweet Friday.

Democrats last week passed a $2.2 trillion aid package, a scaled-back version of their earlier $3.5 trillion legislation. Mr. Mnuchin had previously proposed a $1.6 trillion offer.

White House adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that Mr. Trump had approved moving ahead with a revised stimulus offer that would include aid for small businesses and airlines, as well as checks for households.

Write to Kristina Peterson at [email protected] and Kate Davidson at [email protected]

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U.S. House COVID-19 aid proposal gives airlines bailout hope, but chances slim

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A $2.2 trillion draft bill for coronavirus aid unveiled by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives late on Monday gave airlines some hope for a second bailout before tens of thousands of layoffs occur on Thursday, although tough hurdles remained.

FILE PHOTO: American airlines jets made by Embraer and other manufacturers sit at gates at Washington’s Reagan National airport as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to keep airline travel at minimal levels and the U.S. economy contracts in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession, in Washington, U.S. April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/

“I’m hopeful. I’m not necessarily optimistic,” Chief Executive Nicholas Calio of trade group Airlines for America told “PBS NewsHour” in an interview.

Washington insiders said passage by Thursday, when an initial $25 billion that protected airline jobs through September expires, was unlikely, and the airline group did not detail the congressional action it hoped to see.

An option would be a quick standalone bill for the airlines, although senior Democratic congressional aides said that was also difficult given that many industries are seeking help.

International President of Flight Attendants-CWA Sara Nelson called the proposal, which includes $25 billion for airlines to keep workers on the payroll for another six months, “a significant and serious move in negotiations.”

“It makes agreement on a full relief bill very possible in time to save our jobs,” she said.

Between United Airlines UAL.O and American Airlines AAL.O alone, more than 30,000 employees will be furloughed on Thursday, and tens of thousands more at those airlines and others have agreed to voluntary leave as the sector battles a deep downturn in demand because of the pandemic.

Julie Hedrick, president of the union representing American Airlines’ flight attendants, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote.

“If we are going to save the airline industry, we have to do it now,” she said.

The House bill would provide $28.3 billion for the aviation sector, including $25 billion for passenger airlines and $3 billion for cargo carriers, under the same terms as the first package in March.

The measure would provide $13.5 billion to airports as well as aid for other sectors, including $120 billion to restaurants.

It would also direct $75 million to ensure scheduled passenger air service to small communities.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney

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House Democrats unveil new $2.2T proposal for virus aid

Updated


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled a scaled-back $2.2 trillion aid measure Monday in an attempt to boost long-stalled talks on COVID-19 relief, though there was no sign of progress in continuing negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The latest Democratic measure would revive a $600-per-week pandemic jobless benefit and send a second round of $1,200 direct payments to most individuals. It would scale back an aid package to state and local governments to a still-huge $436 billion, send a whopping $225 billion to colleges and universities, and deliver another round of subsidies to businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.


The proposal represents a cutback from a $3.4 billion bill that passed the House in May, but remains well above what Senate Republicans are willing to accept. Republicans have endorsed staying in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.



Pelosi said Monday that she remains in contact with Mnuchin, with whom she negotiated several earlier relief packages. The two spoke briefly on Sunday and Monday evening and are slated to talk again Tuesday morning, according to Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill.


“We’ve come down $1 trillion, and they need to come up because we have to crush this virus,” Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC. “It takes money to crush the virus. It takes money to make the schools safe. It takes money to put money in people’s pockets.”

Talks over the summer broke down in acrimony and name-calling, and conversations this month haven’t produced visible progress. Even if the rival sides could agree on a “top line” figure from which to negotiate details, dozens of difficult issues would remain to be sorted out.


For instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is insisting that a liability shield against potential lawsuits brought against businesses, schools and universities that reopen during the pandemic be part of the legislation. Pelosi opposes the idea and didn’t include it in Monday’s legislation.

Democrats say the purpose of the new draft legislation is to show good faith and spark a more meaningful round of talks. But it also comes after party moderates and “front line” lawmakers in swing districts protested that Democratic leaders were being too inflexible.


Pelosi’s office has said she’s considering putting the new measure up for a floor vote

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