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According to police, a trail of oil leaking from the sports car led investigators to the luxury home of one of Thailand’s wealthiest families, the co-owners of the Red Bull energy drink empire.

Vorayuth was subsequently charged with five criminal counts, including speeding, hit-and-run, and reckless driving causing death, but the case stalled for years as the billionaire scion repeatedly missed or postponed prosecutors’ summonses. Authorities believe he left Thailand in 2017.

Then on July 23, Colonel Sampan Luangsajjakul of the Royal Thai Police confirmed that the Office of Attorney General (OAG) had decided to drop all charges against Vorayuth, who police have confirmed was aged 30 at the time of the accident, not 27 as they previously said.

The decision to drop the charges thrust the case back into the spotlight — and angered Thais who have long felt that the country’s legal system unfairly favors the rich.

Some called for a boycott of Red Bull products. Others said the decision not to prosecute Vorayuth was the latest and most blatant confirmation of a perceived culture of impunity of the elite in Thailand.

“The public sentiment is that there are different standards when it comes to the rich and the poor.”Ekachai Chainuvati, law lecturer at Siam University in Bangkok

“The public sentiment is that there are different standards when it comes to the rich and the poor,” said Ekachai Chainuvati, a law lecturer at Siam University in Bangkok.

Since then, public pressure has mounted, prompting multiple inquiries by the OAG, police, the lower House of Parliament and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who vowed to “ensure justice in Thai society without dividing it along social class lines.”

From there, the story has veered wildly — from the death of a key witness to the OAG’s decision to instruct police to investigate Vorayuth for two potential charges that could lead to his indictment.

Through it all, the young heir and his immediate family have maintained their silence. But at a time of reignited protests for political change, many people are demanding more accountability for the actions of the rich and powerful at the very top of Thai society.

A life of luxury

Better known by his nickname “Boss,” Vorayuth grew up in one of Thailand’s most prominent families. His grandfather, the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, created the Red Bull energy drink — a fizzy mix of vitamins, sugar, and caffeine — and built it into a global empire.

Born to impoverished Chinese immigrants in northern Thailand, the self-made billionaire started his career selling pharmaceutical supplies. In 1956, he founded his own company, TC Pharmaceutical, which developed over-the-counter drugs for headaches and fever. Chaleo soon became convinced a bigger market was out there for energy drinks. He invented Krating Daeng, a sweet, caffeine-powered beverage that first became popular with day laborers and truck drivers.
In 1984, Chaleo teamed up with Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz and later launched Red Bull, a carbonated version of Krating Daeng that would become a hit among athletes, partygoers, college students and late-night workers worldwide.
After Chaleo’s death in 2012, his son Chalerm Yoovidhya took over the business, according to Forbes. Chalerm and his family currently rank second on the site’s list of 50 richest Thais, behind the agribusiness behemoth of the Chearavanont brothers.
The Yoovidhya family owns about half of the Red Bull global business, which sold 7.5 billion cans of the drink across 171 countries in 2019. The family’s empire includes real estate interests, restaurants, a winery and Thailand’s only official importer of Ferrari cars.
The parent company of the Thai Red Bull brand, TCP Group, has tried to distance itself from the controversy around the alleged hit and run. In a statement, it said Vorayuth had “never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group.”

Like his father and grandfather, Vorayuth kept a low profile and was little known among ordinary Thais prior to the 2012 accident.

When police officers followed the path of leaked oil to the Yoovidhya mansion, an unnamed man on the premises initially claimed that he was driving the Ferrari at the time of the crash, police said at the time.

He was later fined $200 for giving false statements. Vorayuth was taken to a police station for questioning, where he allegedly admitted driving the car and hitting the motorcycle, but claimed he was suddenly cut off by the bike, police said at the time. He was released on bail on a bond of 500,000 baht, about $16,000.
In the ensuing years, Vorayuth did not appear in court for several summonses from public prosecutors, with his attorney claiming he was sick or on business trips abroad. The prosecutor finally issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2017 — almost five years after the incident. But it was too late — Vorayuth had already left Thailand, police said.
Interpol issued an international wanted notice against him, but it no longer appears on the site. Vorayuth’s whereabouts are officially unknown.

CNN has attempted to contact Vorayuth and his immediate family through their lawyer but has not received a response.

Thickening plot

For a long time, the case against Vorayuth seemed to be on hold.

By September 2017, the statute of limitations had expired on four of the charges — including speeding and hit-and-run. Police had until 2027 to prosecute the most serious charge — reckless driving causing death.

That is, until the OAG dropped the case, as CNN reported on July 23.

Net Narksook, the public prosecutor in charge of the case, did not offer any reason for the decision, but a letter issued by the OAG informing police of the decision suggests it was based on “new evidence” that claimed Vorayuth was not speeding at the time of the fatal crash.

According to the letter dated June 12, Vorayuth was originally accused by police of traveling at an estimated speed of 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour) — well above the 80 kph (50 mph) speed limit.

However, the letter said the police expert who initially assessed the Ferrari’s speed changed his estimate in 2016 from 177 kph to 79 kph — just below the speed limit. It did not explain how he reached the lower number.

Two “additional witnesses” told prosecutors in December 2019 that the Ferrari was only moving around 50 to 60 kph (31 to 37 mph) at the time of the crash, according to the document.

Thai police officers inspect a Ferrari car on September 3, 2012.

One of the witnesses, Jaruchart Mardthong, claimed that he was driving a pickup truck behind the police officer, and saw his motorcycle suddenly cut in front of Vorayuth’s Ferrari right before the crash, the letter said.

Jaruchart first gave a statement to police a few weeks after the crash, but was asked to give an additional statement last December, according to the OAG and police. He was expected to be called again to give evidence as multiple investigators examine why the charges were dropped.

However, in the early hours of July 30, Jaruchart, too, was killed in a motorcycle crash.

Death of a witness

The sudden death of a key witness at the height of the controversy reignited public uproar.

CCTV footage seen by CNN showed a man police identified as Jaruchart riding his motorcycle on an empty road in the northern city of Chiang Mai, before colliding with another motorcycle traveling in the same direction.

Lt. Gen. Prachuab Wongsuk, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 5, said the two men had met that night while drinking at a bar, and Jaruchart agreed to follow his new acquaintance to another venue.

  • Timeline

  • Sept 3, 2012

    Sgt. Major Wichien Klanprasert, a Thai police officer, is killed when his motorcycle is struck by a Ferrari allegedly driven by Vorayuth Yoovidhya.

  • Sept 2012

    Vorayuth is charged with reckless driving causing death and speeding, among other crimes.

  • Sept 2013

  • Apr 2017

    An arrest warrant is issued for Vorayuth, but he has already left the country.

  • Sept 2017

    All other charges, besides reckless driving causing death, expire.

  • Jul 23, 2020

    Thai Royal Police confirm to CNN that the OAG advised them to drop the case against Vorayuth in June. Public outcry follows.

  • Jul 26, 2020

    OAG appoints a committee to examine why the case was dropped.

  • Jul 27, 2020

    Police also announce an internal investigation.

  • Jul 29, 2020

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha orders a probe into the circumstances of the case.

  • Jul 30, 2020

    Key witness Jaruchart Mardthong dies in a motorcycle accident.

  • Aug 4, 2020

    The OAG’s committee recommends the OAG advise police to re-investigate the case.

  • Aug 10, 2020

    OAG accepts the recommendations and gives police until August 20 to file a report on their findings.

Sources: Royal Thai Police, CNN reporting

Police say their inquiries suggest Jaruchart lost control of his motorcycle and clipped the wheel of the other rider, who survived the crash.

Prachuab said the collision appeared to be an accident, but police hadn’t ruled out a possible “murder motivation.” “We are investigating suspects surrounding Jaruchart,” he said.

To some observers, the timing was curious — Jaruchart’s death came one day after Prime Minister Prayut announced that he had set up a committee to investigate the dropping of Vorayuth’s case.

Others have raised another point of suspicion — Jaruchart’s cellphone had gone missing after the crash. Jaruchart had been working for the owner of local football club. Lt. Gen. Prachuab told CNN that another of the club’s employees had told police that he took Jaruchart’s cellphone after the crash and deleted all the photos. He said he wanted to remove any evidence of his association with Jaruchart because he was going to run in a local election and didn’t want to be associated with the Red Bull scandal, Prachuab said.

As speculation swirled around the cause of the incident, Prayut ordered a halt to Jaruchart’s cremation scheduled for August 2 and Chiang Mai police seized his body for a second autopsy.

The second autopsy showed Jaruchart had suffered a fractured skull, a ruptured spleen, a broken rib bone, and bleeding in his brain and stomach — injuries consistent with a traffic accident, authorities said. Results of the first autopsy have not been released.

Then on Tuesday, August 4, another twist.

The OAG’s committee cited more “new evidence” — expert opinion from Sathon Vijarnwannaluk, a physics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University who estimated that the Ferrari was traveling at 177 kph, matching the initial conclusion drawn by the police expert.
The committee said it had heard interviews Vijarnwannaluk gave to several Thai media outlets the previous week, in which he claimed to have been a part of the original team tasked by police to examine the crash. He said his team used CCTV footage to calculate the speed of the Ferrari, and had concluded that it was traveling at 177 kph.

The OAG committee claimed that Vijarnwannaluk’s assessment was not included in the police case file, and thus the public prosecutor was unaware of his estimate when he decided to drop the charges. The committee said the public prosecutor didn’t see the 177 kph estimate anywhere in the police report.

An OAG spokesman said Vijarnwannaluk’s expert opinion led the committee to recommend that the OAG order police to reopen the investigation into the speed of Vorayuth’s Ferrari at the time of the crash for the possible charge of reckless driving causing death, said Prayut Bejraguna, deputy spokesman for the OAG.

The committee also suggested police investigate an additional drug allegation against Vorayuth, as it said blood tests conducted following the accident showed traces of the drug, Prayut said.

On Monday, the OAG announced that it was acting on both recommendations and gave police investigators 10 days to file their report.

“The main message we are sending today is that the OAG has revived the case, given breath back to it, so it can… bring ‘Boss’ back to the justice system,” said Prayut, from the OAG.

A family scandal

The scandal has not only angered Thai society, it’s driven a wedge through a family that has long remained silent on the issue.

In a rare statement last month, some members of Vorayuth’s extended family apologized “for the news of our family member that has caused anger, hatred, and dissatisfaction that is increasingly voiced in society.”

“We have to issue this letter to express our regret over this incident and to confirm our respect for a justice system which should provide justice to all without discrimination,” the statement said.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London on April 5, 2017.

The family of the police officer killed in the 2012 crash, have expressed surprise at the latest turn of events. In an interview with “Hone-Krasae,” a popular Thai television talk show, his sister-in-law Nattanun Klanprasert said she was shocked to hear that new evidence had emerged.

She said police had previously told her there were no eye-witnesses to the crash.

“Now, Sr. Sgt. Wichien became the one who committed recklessness instead and caused the accident. He became wrong?” she said, her voice raised.

The charges against Vorayuth have not been reinstated — yet — but he is still a wanted man.

Vicha Mahakun, head of the independent probing committee set up by Prime Minister Prayut, said Wednesday the arrest warrant against Vorayuth is still in place, after a court asked police to withdraw their previous request to revoke it.

Police have until August 20 to interview witnesses and compile a report for the OAG — only then could a case that has intrigued and angered the Thai public for years take another step towards a possible conclusion in court.

Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok, Thailand. Nectar Gan wrote and reported from Hong Kong.

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Israel is winning on the world stage, but losing the plot at home

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“Let us pause for a moment to appreciate this remarkable day. Let us rise above any political divide. Let us put all cynicism aside. Let us feel on this day the pulse of history,” he said last Tuesday. “For long after the pandemic is gone, the peace we make today will endure.”

The normalization deals were the latest feathers in the cap of a leader who’s been on a diplomatic winning streak lately. From the outside, Israel projects the image of a small but mighty country punching far above its weight on the global stage, an innovative “start-up nation” whose thousands of tech firms attract billions in foreign investment each year.

At home it’s a different story, however. The second wave of coronavirus infections in Israel long ago eclipsed the first, forcing the country into a second general lockdown that has shuttered schools, restaurants, entertainment venues and more. And while the coronavirus may be the most pressing challenge facing Netanyahu right now, it’s far from the only one. The 70-year-old leader is being attacked from both left and the right, not only for his handling of the public health crisis, but also for mismanagement of the economy, his response to his criminal trials, and more.

“We have a dysfunctional government, good at producing ceremonies in the White House, bad at running a country,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid. “This is the worst failure Netanyahu ever experienced and we are experiencing it with him … or because of him.”

At home, weekly protests have swelled outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, where thousands of people have come out and called on Israel’s longest-serving leader to resign. The angry crowd, undeterred by a steady barrage of attacks from Netanyahu’s political allies, hold signs that read “Crime Minister” and “Bibi Go Home.” This past weekend, in the first protest since Israel reimposed a general lockdown, eleven protesters were arrested, police said.

Unemployment remains near 19%, according to the Israel Unemployment Service, and an already fragile economy will suffer another blow during the current lockdown. (The Central Bureau of Statistics, which uses a different set of criteria for determining unemployment, says the current rate is between 10.4% and 11.8%.)

Restaurant owners, frustrated as they face a closure that threatens their livelihoods, smashed plates on the floor in protest. Some are more defiant, saying they plan to keep their businesses open.

“No one is caring for us, we have to​ care for ourselves,” restaurateur Yoni Salomon told Israel’s Kann News. “We won’t let anyone take our most basic rights — there is no sense in this closure and I’ll deal with the fine.”

It’s not just restaurateurs defying government lockdown orders. Israeli police handed out almost seven thousand fines​ for violating the restrictions over the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Exemplary leadership from the top has also been noticeably lacking. Despite Netanyahu stressing the importance of wearing masks and social distancing, some of his ministers have been photographed without face coverings during cabinet meetings, and two of Netanyahu’s aides have ​been accused of violating quarantine regulations ​within the last week.

The lockdown restrictions themselves are a study in bureaucratic legalese, often adjusted and tweaked at the last second so as not to anger Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, or any other group with its own interests and goals that the Prime Minister decides he cannot afford to offend.

The current Israeli government is the largest in the country’s 72-year history, a so-called unity government bringing together — at least in theory — the two main political parties: Netanyahu’s Likud party and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. The bloated political Frankenstein, with 34 ministers and 8 deputy ministers, was fabricated with bits and pieces broken off from existing ministries to create additional jobs for politicians to fill, such as the position of alternate Prime Minister and the Ministry of Higher Education and Water Resources.

And yet despite the government’s size, it remains almost exclusively a one-man show. Netanyahu didn’t even notify his Foreign Minister or Defense Minister​– who happens to be Benny Gantz — about the agreement with the United Arab Emirates until it was announced publicly, claiming he was concerned they would leak the news.

This government, specifically designed to handle the coronavirus crisis, was officially sworn in on May 17. ​On that day, Israel recorded just 11 new cases of Covid-19, according to Ministry of Health data. There were 44 patients on ventilators and 3,403 active cases across the country, out of a total of 16,617 cases.

READ: Full text of the Abraham Accords and agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates/Bahrain

At the time, critics quipped that the government could put a government minister next to each patient on a ventilator.

Four months later, Israel’s unity government has abjectly failed in its self-declared primary mission. As of Wednesday morning, there were 54,322 active cases in Israel out of a total of 200,041 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health recorded 6,861 new cases Tuesday, with 171 patients on ventilators. Across the country’s beleaguered hospital system, 634 patients were in serious condition.

“Israelis are extremely pessimistic as a result of the corona crisis, and the perceived mismanagement of the economic and health aspects of the crisis,” said Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). A former politician, Plesner said he’s never seen anything like the problems within this current government.

A recent survey from the IDI showed that Israelis overwhelmingly support the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates, but that hasn’t translated into a sense of trust in government or confidence about the future of the country. Approximately two-thirds of Israelis believe the national mood is either moderately pessimistic or very pessimistic, according to the survey results, conducted by the Midgam Institute and prepared by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research. ​

“Supposedly, this should have been a national unity government that is steering us out of the crisis, creating the necessary reforms to prepare us for the post-corona era; instead it’s a government that is in total paralysis,” Plesner said.

And yet Netanyahu displayed his brash brand of confidence last Thursday, when he tried to assure Israeli citizens that they’re in good hands. “The main thing I am telling you is that health and the economy are in our hands. This is the time for responsibility — personal responsibility and mutual guarantee. We will defeat the coronavirus but only together will we do so,” Netanyahu said.

Israel is going into a second nationwide lockdown over Covid-19

Netanyahu boasted about making peace with two Arab nations in 29 days, from August 13th to September 11th. During that same time period, approximately 62,000 thousand Israelis were diagnosed with Covid-19, while 446 citizens died of the disease. But when Netanyahu was asked last week who should shoulder the blame for the failure to contain the virus, he responded, “There are no failures, only achievements.”

The comment marked a strikingly different tone from that of President Reuven Rivlin just a few days later, when Israel’s head of state offered a forthright apology to the nation for the failure of the country’s leadership to lead.

“I know that we have not done enough as a leadership to be worthy of your attention. You trusted us and we let you down,” said Rivlin. “You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you — to save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy. I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily.”

If Israel’s public health policy is under fire, its economic policy-making is even more sclerotic. The last national budget was passed in 2018, and Netanyahu and Gantz were unable to reach agreement on a new one last month, so they decided instead to simply postpone for a few months in the interests of keeping their government afloat. The head of the budget division in the Ministry of Finance quit his job, joining his counterpart at the Ministry of Health’s public health division, who walked out a few months earlier. Both wrote fiery resignation letters critical of the country’s leadership or lack thereof.

And yet from the lofty position of Israel’s Prime Minister, ​none of the above counts as the number one problem. Netanyahu’s biggest issue is the fact he has been charged with bribery and fraud and breach of trust. He continues to maintain his innocence, attacking the attorney general, investigators, and the judicial system, accusing them of an attempted coup driven by the left-wing and the media.

His trial begins in earnest in January, when a panel of judges will begin hearing from witnesses. It is hard to imagine a White House ceremony big enough to draw attention away from those criminal proceedings.​​​

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Pelosi wrestles with House factions ahead of Supreme Court confirmation fight

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Both factions see their priorities as key to delivering Democrats sweeping power in the House, Senate and White House next year. Whether Pelosi can keep her sprawling caucus from splintering in the month before the election will be critical.

“Leadership has to try to tend to the many different voices in a big very tent. And I understand that,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Oversight Committee.

“But I think this goes beyond an issue of politics,” Connolly added. “It’s about the future of the country. And that’s why I favor robust action that would have been considered really out there — bold — a few years ago.”

Since the death of the liberal icon on Friday, Pelosi has carefully sought to temper progressive expectations about the Supreme Court fight without dampening their enthusiasm — and risk depressing voter turnout on the left over the issue.

Liberal Democrats, both in Congress and leading grassroots groups across the country, have been incensed as they watched Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lock down support for a vote before the election or during a lame duck that could give the court a conservative majority for decades.

Cash is flooding in, and protests have lined the streets of Washington. Activists and even some elected Democrats have begun to talk seriously about packing the courts or an end to the Senate filibuster — historic institutional changes that establishment Democrats have long rejected.

Some chatter even emerged on the left of pursuing the impeachment of a Trump appointee like Attorney General William Barr in a last-ditch attempt to slow the process, though progressives in Washington have been far more restrained in their messaging. Senior Democrats have also repeatedly privately dismissed the idea, saying it wouldn’t work anyway.

“We’ve got to talk about what’s at stake now, what’s at stake in the lives of millions and millions of people,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) when asked about liberal calls for court-packing or ending the filibuster. “Health care is on the ticket once again. … This fight touches the lives of every single person in this country.”

The most progressive voices in the party, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have clearly articulated their support for Senate Democrats to ultimately strike back, such as eliminating the legislative filibuster and adding justices to the court.

“Frankly, I think if Vice President Biden wants to accomplish anything significant in his term, that is what is going to be necessary,” the liberal Democrat told POLITICO. “If I’m Joe Biden and I completely shut down the possibility of expanding the court, I would seriously question what you can even accomplish as president.”

But Ocasio-Cortez has also made a concerted effort to stay on message with the Democratic party leadership in the crucial final run-up to the November election.

Over the weekend, Ocasio-Cortez appeared alongside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a New York City press conference, where both insisted that Democrats would keep their options open. And Ocasio-Cortez also said even though Biden hasn’t embraced far-left ideas like court-packing, he is at least “open” to different ideas and she thinks he is “calculating correctly.”

The demands of the far left could hardly look more different than the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, which is more worried about holding onto their seats in November. They say the party’s only response should be talking more about the threats to Americans’ health care — repeating the playbook that helped propel the party back to power in the House in 2018.

And most centrist Democrats have little interest in heeding demands of outside liberal groups and even some members, which they fear will cause lasting damage to the institution and may only backfire the next time the Republican party seizes power.

“We have to focus on right now and protecting health care today,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who leads the caucus’ messaging arm. “If we’re privileged enough to win the House, the Senate and the White House, we’ll have lots of opportunities to talk about solutions. But right now, we need to call out the president for what he is attempting to do.”

Moderate Democrats were privately furious that some of their more liberal counterparts, like Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), would float the idea of expanding the court in retaliation for Republicans ramming through a new Supreme Court justice this year.

And even publicly, some congressional Democrats argue that the vocal calls for scorched-earth tactics right now could have unintended consequences for the party.

“Why provide anybody any ammunition at all to attack us for something that is speculative?” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The Republicans would love nothing more than to shift this into an academic discussion about the number of times that the Supreme Court’s size has changed.”

Pelosi refused to rule out extreme dilatory tactics like impeachment during an interview on ABC on Sunday, saying the House will use “every arrow in our quiver” to stop Republicans from confirming President Donald Trump’s third high court nominee. But Democrats privately shut down the idea of pursuing impeachment. And Pelosi has repeatedly tried to shift the focus to what the Supreme Court fight means for preserving or destroying Obamacare.

Pelosi and Schumer circulated talking points encouraging Democrats to frame the Supreme Court fight in those terms. And Pelosi has repeatedly emphasized the success of Democrats’ almost singular health care message in 2018.

Pelosi speculated that Republicans and Trump were rushing to fill the high court vacancy to strike down the Affordable Care Act, a move she predicted would backfire on the GOP like the party’s effort to dismantle the law in 2018. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the Trump administration’s challenge to Obamacare the week after the election.

“You overturn the Affordable Care Act, you overturn preexisting conditions, 2018 will be a way of life for Republicans,” Pelosi told Democrats on a private call Tuesday, according to sources on the call.

Many moderate Democrats have already made health care a top issue in their reelection campaigns this fall.

But they’ve also begun to feel the intense pressure on another issue: economic relief for tens of millions of Americans who’ve been left struggling as the U.S. economy sputtered over the last six months due to the pandemic.

“People in my district are worried about their pocketbooks and their kids,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a frontliner, said in an interview Tuesday. “And while they feel very strongly about the importance of a lifetime appointment … they want to know when the next Covid emergency relief bill is gonna be here, they want to know how they can get masks and supplies to keep their businesses open, they want to know what’s happening with unemployment.”

Democrats in the most competitive races have begun vocally pressing Pelosi and her leadership team for more dramatic steps on a coronavirus relief package. More than 20 Democrats, including Slotkin, signed a bipartisan letter to Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday urging them to keep lawmakers in Washington until a relief bill can be passed — even if it means less time to campaign before November.

“This should be our number one priority in the coming days,” lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the New York Times and obtained by POLITICO.

At least a dozen Democrats are also privately discussing joining a GOP discharge petition that would force a vote on additional aid for small business grants, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. That includes Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) — all facing tough reelection battles this fall.

In one sign of hope, Pelosi told her members in a private call on Tuesday that she’s still pushing to secure a pandemic aid package with GOP leaders — regardless of the intense discussions over the court across the Capitol — with hopes of delivering relief before the election.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told members on Tuesday they should be expected to remain in town next week and he is keeping the schedule open for a potential vote.

“Getting into these beltway arguments, in this bubble, when people are hurting, small businesses are going out of business every day for good. … What are we quibbling about here?” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), referring to the debate over court-packing and nuking the filibuster.

“There’s still an alarming rate of Covid positive tests in this country. I just think it’s a little premature to talk about what Democrats are gonna do in the Senate in January.”



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Dido Harding Has Been Asked By MPs To Reveal The Evidence Behind Pub Closures

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Coronavirus testing chief Dido Harding is being asked by MPs to provide the evidence behind the new 10pm pub curfew and the decision to only allow table service.

Mike Wood, the chair of Westminster’s largest cross-party interest group, the all-party parliamentary group for beer, said pubs could be financially crippled by the government’s decision to shut them early.

He suggested that if there is evidence from NHS Test and Trace justifying the move, it would be fair for publicans to be able to see it.

On the idea that the disease spreads in pubs, Wood said: “We do need to see the information that they have got that shows why this is much more likely.

“The overwhelming majority of pubs are taking a lot of measures to reduce the risk and increasing cleaning.

“I’ve written to Baroness Harding on behalf of the APPG to ask for more detail on what Test and Trace has shown.”

The APPG has 22 members from across the Commons and Lords and a representative from most political parties. It aims to support the pub and brewing industry.

Wood said the new rules announced by the government would put enormous pressure on pubs, many of which are already in financial difficulty after being closed for so long.

In some small rural areas, he said rather than the reduced hours being the difficulty, it is likely to be impossible to set up table service because of the size of their premises and staffing. He said they might have no alternative to close.

The Treasury may also need to step in to help struggling pubs by extending a grant scheme for the retail and hospitality sector that was delivered through local authorities in April and May, he suggested.

“We are going to need to consider what more is needed because this is going to be lasting much longer than we hoped it would.

“Most of them are operating on a fraction of their former business, few of them are not even breaking even,” he said.

Boris Johnson said in the Commons today reducing pub opening times was a difficult decision but the evidence showed the disease has spread between people at night when more alcohol has been consumed. He said this move could drive down the R-number.

Toby Perkins MP, who chairs the separate all-party parliamentary group for pubs, is also calling on the government to release more information on how they made their decision.

The Labour MP wants ministers to explain to MPs in the Commons what Test and Trace has revealed.

“There are a lot of pubs that have gone to tremendous efforts to be socially distancing and safe places.

“I’d be interested to see the evidence for this. Has the government picked up from actual evidence that people were being careful at the start of the night but less as the drinks flowed?

“The department for health has the data in terms of track and trace and if this decision has come from that then that would be interesting but it’s really a case of them telling us on what basis the decision has been made, then we can scrutinise.”

Outside of Westminster, groups representing the pub trade were also urging government to rapidly release the basis on which the decision over pubs had been made.

Tom Stainer, CAMRA chief executive, said the government’s decision would punish thousands of responsible publicans across England who are providing safe environments for their customers.

“CAMRA is calling on the government to publish the evidence that pubs or restaurants are the source of more transmissions than other sectors across the country – if they aren’t, then why are they being singled out for nationwide restrictions?” he said.

 

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