Posts tagged with "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell"

Trump knuckles under, signs stimulus package

December 29, 2020

While many Americans spent the holiday weekend worrying or grieving about sick friends and relatives, trying to get work, and eating food bank provisions, a peevish President Donald Trump partied and played golf at his private Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago.

But even Air Force One couldn’t get him far enough away from the problems he had created in the nation’s capital. Both Democratic and Republican party leaders pressured Trump to sign two bills he had left on his desk and threatened to veto—a major coronavirus stimulus package and an annual spending bill.

Trump had not participated in the talks leading up to passage of the COVID-19 aid legislation, but had indicated to his surrogate, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, that he would approve a bill that offered direct stimulus checks of $600 to the American people.

Indeed, Mnuchin promised that, once the bill passed, the $600 stimulus checks could be expected to reach Americans by this week. Meanwhile, unemployment programs established earlier this year expired on Saturday night.

But it didn’t happen. According to a report by Politico, Trump spent the weekend railing against the current package, tweeting that he wanted to “increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pork’” and “$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, [COVID] was China’s fault!”

Hoping go change his mind and convince him to sign off on the legislation, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several Republican senators, including Senators David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina.), spoke to Trump multiple times through Sunday night.

Lawmakers were preparing for catastrophe amid Trump’s threats, and House members were prepared on Monday, December 28, to vote on a short-term funding bill to avert a midnight shutdown.

But on Sunday evening after days of being lobbied by allies and warned that he would decimate his own political legacy , Trump decided to sign the bill and not leave office amid a maelstrom of expired benefits and a government shutdown, Politico said.

He said he will insist on reductions in spending in parts of the bill, though Congress does not have to go along.

“I will sign the omnibus and COVID package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” Trump said on Sunday night.

The president also said the Senate would soon begin work on ending legal protections for tech companies, examining voter fraud and boosting the check size for direct payments. The current Congress ends in six days.

The House will move ahead with a vote Monday on boosting direct payments to $2,000, forcing Republicans to go on the record against the president.

“I applaud President Trump’s decision to get hundreds of billions of dollars of crucial COVID-19 relief out the door and into the hands of American families as quickly as possible,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement that did not mention the commitments Trump said the Senate has made.

Research contact: @politico

COVID aid package in limbo after Trump’s surprise demand to boost direct payments

December 24, 2020

Outgoing President Donald Trump’s last-minute demand to increase the size of direct payments to Americans—from $600 to $2,000— threw the status of the U.S. Congress’s coronavirus relief package into limbo Wednesday, just days before many crucial support programs expire, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In a video posted on Tuesday night, December 22, on Twitter, the president criticized the legislation and called on lawmakers to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples—up from $600 per adult and per child, the current level in the bill.

His unexpected broadside against the bill unleashed another standoff between the White House and Capitol Hill—where, the Journal said, Senate Republicans had angered Trump by acknowledging Democrat Joe Biden as the president-elect.

Trump already had threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill, which passed both chambers of Congress with broad, bipartisan support.

His pushback on the coronavirus relief package surprised lawmakers, many of whom already had departed Washington after Congress overwhelmingly approved the relief bill in a 92-6 vote in the Senate and 359-53 in the House. The 5,593-page year-end package combines the coronavirus relief and a $1.4 trillion spending bill needed to fund the government through next September, the Journal reported.

The final bill approved by Congress carrying the $600 check to no public role. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been the main White House negotiator in talks with congressional leaders—who said the final agreement had the support of President Trump. The president waited nearly a full day after it had passed both chambers of Congress to lodge his complaints.

Democrats, who had pressed for higher direct payments during the negotiations, welcomed the opportunity to seek more aid for households struggling from the economic impacts of the pandemic. They also called on. Trump to sign the sweeping year-end package, which includes extensions of unemployment benefits, among other coronavirus relief measures.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said on Twitter late Tuesday that she would try this week to pass under unanimous consent legislation approving $2,000 checks. Multiple Democrats had already prepared legislation authorizing the larger checks.

“I’m in. Whaddya say, Mitch?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York.) said on Twitter late Tuesday, retweeting a comment from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-New York), who said she had a $2,000 check bill ready to go. “The American people deserve it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who had pushed to keep the coronavirus aid package’s cost below $900 billion, has notyet commented on Trump’s new stance.

Research contact  @WSJ

Mitch McConnell publicly acknowledges Biden-Harris win

December 16, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally has acknowledged, in the words of a familiar children’s book, that “The emperor has no clothes.” Although President Donald Trump has yet to concede the election—and is asking his base to fight back against unseen and undocumented voter fraud—on Monday, December 14, following the Electoral College vote, McConnell for the first time acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory and referred to him as President-elect.

“The electoral college has spoken,” McConnell said in remarks from the Senate floor in the U.S Capitol, six weeks after Election Day and amid President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to accept defeat. He added, “Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”

According to a report by CNN, McConnell’s comments are significant given that many Senate Republicans still wouldn’t recognize Biden’s victory on Monday evening—even after the Electoral College had made the win official.

Democrats have criticized Republicans’ refusal to accept the outcome of the election, and highlighted how it took more than 40 days since Americans went to the polls for many GOP members of Congress to speak up.

“The fact that it took six weeks for my colleagues to recognize reality and stop undermining our Democratic process is sad and disappointing,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin in a floor speech Tuesday following McConnell’s remarks.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, made the comments, CNN said, after praising the Trump presidency in the past tense, touting his administration’s accomplishments, including the country’s “economic prosperity,” “foreign policy,” judicial appointments, and “bold regulatory changes” in a floor speech.

“It would take far more than one speech to catalog all the major wins the Trump administration has helped deliver for the American people,” he said. “The outsider who swore he would shake up Washington and lead our country to new accomplishments, both at home and abroad, proceeded to do exactly that. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence deserve our thanks and our gratitude for their tireless work and their essential roles in all these victories and in many more.”

In his floor remarks, McConnell also congratulated Vice-President elect Kamala Harris for the first time.

“I also want to congratulate the vice president-elect, our colleague from California, Senator Harris,” he said. “Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time.”

McConnell said that, while millions wished the election would have yielded a different result, “our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20th. The Electoral College has spoken.”

Research contact: @CNN

A chief economist says McConnell expects Trump to lose the election—so he won’t force a stimulus vote

October 19, 2020

Mitch McConnell won’t risk his position as Senate majority leader by forcing through a stimulus bill now, because he expects President Donald Trump to lose next month’s election, Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics in the United Kingdom, said in a webinar on October 15.

“I think McConnell expects Trump to lose, and therefore, for him to spend political capital to support Trump by forcing through a bill which would put his own leadership position at risk after the election, to me, doesn’t make any sense,” Shepherdson said, according to a report by Business Insider.

“It’s always wise to do things from McConnell’s personal perspective, because that’s how things operate in the Senate. He has enormous personal power, and he wants to be leader again, even if he has to be a leader in the minority,” he said, alluding to the potential that Democrats could win a majority in the Senate next month.

House Democrats have put forward a $2.2 trillion plan, but McConnell has described it as “outlandish” and said the amount was too high.

On Thursday, he signaled that his limit is $500 billion, Business Insider said. “My members think what we laid out—a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted—is the best way to go,” he said. “So that’s what I’m going to put on the floor.”

To pass a big relief bill, Shepherdson said, McConnell would end up dividing his own party, since about 15 to 20 Republicans oppose a deal at or above $1.5 trillion.

But he ultimately wouldn’t push Republicans to agree, because “splitting the party is death to the leader,” Shepherdson said. He cited examples of the Republican leaders John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who also faced contentious splits within the GOP.

“There will be no bill of any size until after the inauguration,” Shepherdson said. “Here we are, in mid-October, looking at money not flowing until mid-February. That means a real void for the economy. It means potentially some very nasty growth numbers.”

Shepherdson added that market volatility around the rising or falling chance of a new stimulus bill had been “an accident waiting to happen.”

He said he expected a multitrillion-dollar bill by the end of January.

“The bill that I think will pass in February will be enormous. It will be $2 trillion-plus. It might even be the $3.3 trillion that the Democratic majority passed in May which was then ignored by the Senate,” he said.

But he said he didn’t expect the two chambers of Congress to work together before then. “That means leaving something positive for Biden to start with, and that’s not the mindset of Republicans in the Senate,” he said.

Research contact: @businessinsider

N.Y. Governor Cuomo excoriates Congress for politicizing federal funding to hard-hit states

May 29, 2020

After a visit to the White House to discuss New York State-based infrastructure projects that could provide a “bailout with a legacy”—among them, plans for extending the 2nd Avenue Subway in the Big Apple and constructing two new tunnels across the Hudson River to carry Amtrak trains that service the northeast—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sat down for a briefing at the National Press Club on May 27, delivering a fiery defense of federal funding to states that have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

He excoriated Congressional Republicans for politicizing aid to the states by giving preference to red states over blue. And in doing so, Cuomo specifically directed his message at critics such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida), The Washington Post reported.

 “Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey,” Cuomo said to lawmakers in Congress, adding, “Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the COVID virus through no fault of their own.”

This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” said the governor, according to a transcript posted by Yahoo. “We have people saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue-state bailout.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , Republican of Kentucky, said Cuomo, is interested in “Stopping blue state bailouts.”

Senator Rick Scott of Florida (R) has said, according to Cuomo, “We’re supposed to bail them out? That’s not right.”

“This is really an ugly, ugly sentiment,” maintained the New York Governor. “It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States. Those words meant something.”

Cuomo said he isn’t asking the federal government to do his state’s job.

“I understand that states are responsible for the reopening … but, at the same time, the federal government has a role to play and it has to play a part. There cannot be a national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded. That is a fact.”

Washington is now debating a new recovery bill, he said.

“Previous bills have helped large business, small businesses, all kinds of businesses. Hotels. Airlines. That’s great,” maintained Cuomo. But state and local governments fund schools and hospitals, police, fire.

“The COVID states — the states that bore the brunt — they’re one-third of the GDP,” noted the governor. “How can you tell one-third of the country to go to heck and think that you’re going to see an economic rebound?”

“Also, state economies, that’s what the national economy is made of,” he said. “There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town.”

Scott fired back in a statement, declaring that Congress will not “use a health crisis and taxpayer money to bail out poorly-run states like Governor Cuomo’s New York.”

McConnell’s office pointed to remarks the Senate majority leader made Tuesday, when he said that “there may be some additional assistance” for states in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation “if it’s directly related to COVID-19.”

Cuomo also pushed back on the notion that the coronavirus came to the United States from China, an argument that Trump and GOP lawmakers have increasingly made as the pandemic has swept across the country.

“It didn’t come from China. It came from Europe, and we bore the brunt of it. And now you want to hold that against us because we bore the brunt of a national mistake?” he asked.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Pelosi gives Trump an ‘F’ on coronavirus: ‘Delay, denial, death’

April 23, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pummeled President Donald Trump on April 22 for what she called his lack of preparation and poor handling of COVID-19 testing nationwide, NBC News reported.

Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC’s  Morning Joe that “if you do not test, you cannot possibly know the size of the challenge,” which she said is why testing is the key to reopening the U.S. economy.

“For our seniors in nursing homes and the rest, as you say, there’s a big toll being taken there. But if we can test and contact and isolate people, we’re on a very much better path,” Pelosi said, adding, “There’s a Boy Scout saying, ‘Proper preparation prevents poor performance.’ Well, that is exactly where the president gets an F.”

In a statement that will, no doubt, go viral, Pelosi outlined what she considered to be the bald truth: “He was not properly prepared, not with the truth, with the facts, or the admission of what was happening in our country — delay, whatever, delay, denial, death,” she declared. “And instead we’d like to see him insist on the truth and we must insist on the truth with him.”

The speaker said she wished that Trump wouldn’t be an “agent of distraction” and suggested that his latest decision to suspend immigration into the U.S. is merely a “distraction from his failure on testing.”

Scientists have debunked what some White House officials have said about needing only a certain level of testing, Pelosi said.

“We’re never going to get there at the snail pace that they are putting forth,” she said. “But you have seen scientists outside, academics and the rest setting a standard three times higher than what the White House is talking about. So we have put the resources there. We’re prepared to do more in terms of the testing in the next legislation.”

Trump said at Tuesday’s White House briefing that the U.S. “has tested more people than anybody anywhere in the world by far. By very far.” NBC News has repeatedly fact-checked this statement. While the U.S. has run the highest number of raw tests, it has not conducted the most per capita.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Trump threatens to adjourn Congress in order to unilaterally confirm his nominees

April 17, 2020

“I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be,” President Donald Trump told Fox News in November 2017. And he continues to think that his choices are the only ones of value.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the president threatened on April 15 to adjourn both chambers of Congress so he can appoint his nominees for key positions without confirmation by the Senate.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports, during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Trump called on lawmakers to formally adjourn the House and Senate so he can make recess appointments for positions he said were important to the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate, which confirms a president’s nominees, has been conducting what are called pro forma sessions while lawmakers are back in their states, sheltering in place.

No legislative business is conducted during these brief meetings, which sometimes last only a few minutes, but they technically prevent the president from making recess appointments.

If lawmakers don’t agree to adjourn and end the pro forma sessions, “I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress,” President Trump avowed. “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It’s a scam, what they do.”

Among the appointments Trump said he wanted to make, the Journal reported, was his nominee to head the agency that oversees Voice of America, conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, who has been blocked by Democrats. The White House has accused the government-backed news organization of spreading foreign propaganda—a charge VOA strongly denies.

In addition to the VOA nominee, Trump pointed to his nominee to be the director of national intelligence, as well as nominees for positions on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, and in the Treasury Department and the Agriculture Department.

The Constitution gives the president the power to adjourn Congress only in the rare circumstances of a disagreement between the two chambers over when to adjourn. No president has ever exercised the authority to adjourn it.

President Barack Obama challenged the Senate’s practice of holding pro forma sessions to try to block his constitutional power to make recess appointments. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against  Obama’s end run around the Senate in 2014.

Trump said he was reluctant to make recess appointments but would do so if Congress doesn’t act on his nominees.

For Mr. Trump’s strategy to work he would need the cooperation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Kentucky), who would have to force a disagreement with the House over when to adjourn. Trump and McConnell discussed the idea in a phone call earlier Wednesday, the Journal reports.

The president acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal challenge. “We’ll see who wins,” he said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Stretching a point: Photo of Mitch McConnell social distancing goes viral

April 14, 2020

Reporters stayed within shouting distance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—but remained the recommended six feet away or more from him and each other—as he left the Senate chamber on April 9, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The result was a photo seen around the world, and tweeted about endlessly, The Huffington Post reports.

A tweet from Doris Morgan Rueda said, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force

Walter Shaub (perhaps the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, although we have not confirmed it) commented, “… at 1:40 PM at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, ten people witnessed a free floating, full torso, vaporous apparition. It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks off some poor librarian!”

Rachel Dzanashville said, “I’d like to commission this as a baroque painting.”

Ian Millhister contributed, “DEAR GOD! Who is that idiot in the mask who broke the circle? Now The Mitch will escape and exact tenfold revenge on his captors

And, among many others, Melissa Murray captioned the photo, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force reports.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Stimulus bill prohibits Trump family, lawmakers from benefiting from loan programs

March 26, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill that the White House and Senate leaders were expected to sign off on this Wednesday prohibits either Congressional lawmakers or President Donald Trump’s family business from benefiting from loans or investments through its corporate liquidity program, The Hill reports.

“We wrote a provision, not just the president, but any major figure in government, Cabinet, Senate, congressmen — if they have majority, they have majority control, they can’t get grants or loans and that makes sense,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a CNN interview. “Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law.”

Trump acknowledged on March 21 that the coronavirus pandemic is hurting his family business, The Hill said. Since the start of the U.S. outbreak, dozens of state and local governments have ordered nonessential businesses—such as hotels and resorts —to close.

“I wouldn’t say you’re thriving when you decide to close down your hotels and your businesses,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about reports that Trump Organization properties are being adversely affected by COVID-19.

“But is it hurting me? Yeah, it’s hurting me, and it’s hurting Hilton, and it’s hurting all of the great hotel chains all over the world,” he added.

At a Saturday morning White House press briefing, Trump was asked if he would accept stimulus money from the stimulus package meant to counter some of the damage the pandemic has done to the economy.

“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I just don’t know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels. Everybody knew I had hotels when I got elected. They knew I was a successful person when I got elected, so it’s one of those things.”

However, before the 2016 election, Trump had promised that his children, Don Jr. and Eric, would run the Trump Organization and that he would keep his distance from the company. However, that has not happened.

The provision to ban lawmakers from benefiting from Treasury Department programs in the stimulus bill was among 19 items highlighted by Schumer in his letter to colleagues describing the contents of the bill.

“Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has secured a provision in the agreement that will prohibit businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs,” his office said in an email to reporters. “The children, spouses and in-laws of the aforementioned principals are also included in this prohibition.”

Research contact: @thehill

Democrats block Senate coronavirus bill, calling it a bailout for corporations and Trump’s family

March 24, 2020

Who will benefit from the bills that the U.S. Congress is churning out to deal with COVID-19? Will it be everyday Americans and the healthcare heroes who are struggling to stem the pandemic; or big business—including what Senator Elizabeth Warren has characterized as a “slush fund for Donald Trump and his family”—and Wall Street?

According to a report by The Huffington Post, Democrats are raising serious concerns about the Senate’s massive emergency legislation aimed at propping up the economy and giving relief to workers hit hard by the growing coronavirus pandemic—saying it’s tilted too far in favor of Wall Street and big corporations.

The bill—said to offer at least $1 trillion to prop up an economy paralyzed by the virus—would represent the largest government response thus far to the crisis.

On Wednesday, March 18, lawmakers passed and President Donald Trump signed into law Democratic legislation that makes coronavirus testing free, expands unemployment insurance benefits and provides paid leave to some displaced workers.

Now, the HuffPost says, Democrats have leverage over the final shape of the bill because it will require 60 votes for passage and Republicans number 53 in the 100-seat Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) attempted to advance the bill on Sunday evening, emphasizing the need to move quickly to help those who have been laid off during the crisis. He said both sides had ample time to reach a deal on outstanding issues before a final vote on Monday.

But Democrats unanimously blocked the measure over its provisions allowing the Trump administration to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to major industries like hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and oil and gas.

“We’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care,” a visibly frustrated McConnell said in a floor speech—followed by a press release—after the vote, accusing Democrats of partisan obstruction that threatened the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), meanwhile, said his party opposed moving forward with the bill “because among other problems it includes huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability, and because it shortchanges our hospitals and health care workers who need our help.”

Schumer said he was hopeful changes could be made in ongoing discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin but added that “we are not yet at that point.”

The high-stakes negotiations, which have been taking place all weekend, gained even more urgency on Sunday after Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He is the first member of the Senate to contract the virus. Four other Republican senators, some of whom were in close proximity to Paul on Capitol Hill earlier this week, also were self-isolating and did not vote Sunday.

“Wall Street’s going to do just fine. They’ve always rebounded real well … let’s take care of the people we’re asking to take care of us if we need them,” Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, said in a floor speech.

Democrats are also unhappy with the portion of the bill aimed at helping distressed industries with at least $450 billion in loans. The massive fund would be controlled by the Treasury Department and could include bailouts to hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and the oil and gas industry. It includes virtually no restrictions on how the money would be distributed, allowing properties owned directly by President Donald Trump to receive a bailout, for example, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.

Another provision in the bill Democrats oppose would allow Mnuchin to delay publicly releasing the names of businesses that receive a bailout, as well as the amounts of those loans, for six months.

“We’re not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts.) told reporters. “We’re here to help workers, we’re here to help hospitals. And right now what the Republicans proposed does neither of those.” 

Research contact: @HuffPost