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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Stalled auction of 89-year-old’s house over 6-cent tax bill spurs new proposed rule

A law that allowed an 89-year-old woman’s house to be put up for auction because she owed 6 cents in back taxes would be amended under a bill that her state senator plans to introduce in the coming weeks.

The story of the octogenarian Ocean Township homeowner, Glen Kristi Goldenthal, drew international attention this week after her daughter in Virginia bitterly denounced township officials in a video she posted September 9 on Twitter.

“Today, I spent the entire day saving her home from a tax sale that was happening today that she didn’t want to tell me about because she has Alzheimer’s,” Goldenthal’s daughter, Lisa Suhay, said in the video, posted above.

“So, half the time she didn’t even remember it was happening, and the other half the time she was too terrified to tell me, and too ashamed, and too afraid and too worried,” Suhay said. “A tax sale for an 89-year-old woman’s home in the middle of a pandemic. And do you want to know how much my mother owed? Six cents. Six pennies. And for that, they put her house up for sale today.”

Goldenthal’s house didn’t get auctioned off. After the video was posted, Mayor Christopher Siciliano intervened to take the home off auction block. And since then, Siciliano said Suhay had paid what was owed on the property, which actually totaled more than $300, including fees.

Siciliano also reached out to State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, asking the lawmaker to introduce legislation to prevent such a minuscule debt from threatening the loss of a home in the future.

Reached on Thursday, Gopal said he would do just that, with a bill that would set a minimum dollar amount owed, probably $100 or less, before a property was subject to auction.

As it stands now, state law governing tax sales, NJSA 54:5-20.1 calls for an auction when a lien exceeds $100, but leaves it up to the discretion of the local tax collector to decide whether and when to put a property up for a tax auction when the amount owed is less than that.

“This would remove the discretion,” said Gopal, who added that there was an increased likelihood that property owners of any age might fall behind on their taxes amid the coronavirus-related economic downturn.

“I think it’s a little ridiculous and unfortunate, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that those who are most vulnerable shouldn’t be shut out, especially during these tough times,” Gopal said.

In defense of Ocean’s tax officials, Siciliano said the six cents owed on the property was part of a years-long pattern of delinquency related to Goldenthal’s Redmond Avenue property that persists to this day. He said her address was among those on a computer-generated list of properties subject to auctioning due to non-payment of liens, without details of the property owners’ ages or other circumstances.

The six cents owed from 2019, he said, was actually the amount that a purchaser of a

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