“I appreciate Mr. DeJoy decided to take on this very thankless task, and unfortunately he’s finding out it’s not only thankless, but now he’s being subject to character assassination as well,” Johnson said.
DeJoy may struggle to mollify his critics, but the move also gives the Republican megadonor and Trump ally the opportunity to try to regain control of his own narrative ahead of what’s sure to be a fiery Democratic-led oversight hearing next week.
DeJoy’s testimony comes after senior Democrats expressed alarm about President Donald Trump’s attacks on voting by mail along with a host of operational changes deployed by DeJoy they fear could upend the November election. The Postal Service recently sent letters to 46 states warning that potential delays in mail delivery could leave ballots uncounted.
DeJoy announced this week that he would suspend these changes until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” But that so far hasn’t appeased Democrats, who are demanding DeJoy provide further clarification and reverse steps already taken, including removing sorting machines and limiting overtime.
Top Democrats signaled the skeptical line of inquiry they’ll present at Friday’s hearing.
“Was there a management trigger that things were not going right that you paused it, or did it take just public outcry to say stop this especially as we’re heading toward an election,” asked Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the committee, in an interview. Peters added he was concerned DeJoy was leaving some changes in place.
Democrats have also raised questions about DeJoy’s selection for the role as Postmaster General in the first place.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said Thursday they have evidence that DeJoy was not among the candidates initially vetted by a search firm hired to select the next Postmaster General — which they called a “highly irregular” development. The lawmakers said DeJoy’s name was proposed by John Barger, a member of the USPS Board of Governors and a fellow GOP donor.
DeJoy will testify before the House Oversight panel on Monday. House Democrats are also set to pass legislation in a rare Saturday session to shore up the Postal Service with $25 billion and to block DeJoy’s moves.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently sent a letter to the Board of Governors, asking for additional information about DeJoy’s selection. In the letter, Schumer noted the search firm refused to answer questions from his staff, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
Johnson defended DeJoy’s selection ahead of the hearing, saying he was “identified by a professional search firm that was looking for someone who has the managerial capabilities and skill set to come in and fix an almost unfixable problem here.”
Before becoming Postmaster General, DeJoy was chief executive of the supply chain business for XPO Logistics, a logistics company based in Connecticut that does business with the Postal Service.
But he also arrived at the job after cultivating deep ties with the Republican Party and Trump.
The GOP megadonor started seriously supporting Republicans running for office after he and his wife Aldona Wos moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, in the late 1990s from New York.
Wos, who was nominated by Trump in February to be ambassador to Canada, also served as ambassador to Estonia in the George W. Bush administration and later was the health and human services secretary for former GOP North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.
McCrory, in an interview, called DeJoy “the most qualified person to hold that job since Ben Franklin” was Postmaster General.
DeJoy is active in North Carolina’s philanthropic circles, holding events for his Catholic church and universities like Duke and Elon at his 15,000 square foot house in Greensboro, which some in his community call “The Castle” and which is also used for Republican fundraisers, including one attended by Trump in 2017.
“Louis’ thing was these big flashy fundraisers with a lot of high-profile people,” said one North Carolina Republican operative who knows him. “I always felt like he wanted to be a big f—— deal. … His personality is very much like Trump’s. I can totally see how they get along.”
Friends say the Brooklyn-born DeJoy admires Trump for being a self-styled disruptor.
“He loves Trump, loves him to death,” said the operative. “I think he likes somebody who stands for what he believes in and says it like it is. They’re both ‘say it like it is’ kind of people.”
The person recounted one episode in 2018 when DeJoy created something of a scene at a GOP fundraiser held at the Greensboro Country Club. Attendees were awaiting the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence, who was late after touring tornado damage.
“The room is dead silent. No one is talking and so DeJoy comes storming in, like he’s getting ready to storm the beaches of Normandy. He uses the ‘Hook ‘em horns’ sign in his mouth to whistle and he whistles right into the microphone,” the person said. “That whistle was ear-piecing.”
K.D. Kennedy, the finance chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, said DeJoy “loves Trump, and he admires him as being a very strong businessman and somebody who cares more about the country at this point in his life than being an entrepreneur.“
DeJoy always hit the fundraising numbers that he had promised candidates when organizing fundraisers, and was “proud of the fact that he maybe was one of Trump’s best fundraisers,” added Kennedy, who’s known him for several years.
Kennedy, who’s been with both Trump and DeJoy together a few times, said that the two have a “camaraderie” since they have similar operating styles and views on life.
Trump likes DeJoy’s intelligence and business background, according to an elected North Carolina Republican who knows both men.
Trump also appreciates that even though DeJoy helped elect the president, he never asked Trump for any favors.
“‘All these people that help me, they ask for something, they want this position, or that position,’” Trump told the official. “‘Louis never asked for anything.’”
A White House official reiterated in a statement that DeJoy was not nominated, but instead selected by the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors.
Trump wasn’t DeJoy’s first choice to be the 2016 Republican nominee; DeJoy donated $2,700 in June 2015 to Jeb Bush and $25,000 that April to Bush’s Super PAC Right to Rise.
But since August 2016, he has donated more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign, including a recent donation of $210,600 this past February, FEC records show.
According to a person familiar with his hiring, DeJoy’s Trump connections and donations were a negative for some board members, but his logistics experience outweighed such concerns.
The board had a “long discussion” about his Trump ties, the person said, because they knew it was going to be “a lightning rod.”
India’s Ranjitsinh Disale wins 2020 Global Teacher Prize and splits it with runners-up
Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher at Zilla Parishad Primary School, in the village of Paritewadi in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, was chosen as winner from more than 12,000 nominations and applications, from over 140 countries around the world.
The award recognized his efforts to promote girls’ education at the school, whose pupils are mostly from tribal communities.
The Global Teacher Prize said he learned the local language of the village in order to translate class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue.
He also created unique QR codes on the textbooks to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments, greatly improving school attendance. His QR technology is now being rolled out more widely across India.
Rather than keeping all his winnings, Disale told Fry in an interview that he would share the prize with the other nine finalists, giving them $55,000 each — the first time anyone has done so in the award’s six-year history.
He told Fry: “I believe that if I share this prize money with nine teachers it means I can scale up their work. Their incredible work is still worthy… If I share the prize money with the rest of the teachers they will get a chance to continue their work… and we can reach out and lighten the lives of as many students as we can.”
“Educating young children, especially from poor and needy backgrounds is perhaps the best way to help them as individuals, and actively contributes to creating a better world,” he said.
The award’s nine runners-up are teachers working in the United States, Britain, Vietnam, Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil.
Pelosi eyes combining Covid aid with mammoth spending deal
Pelosi said the $908 billion proposal released this week by a centrist group of Senate and House members helped restart the stimulus talks, which fell apart just before the election after months of dragging on with little real movement.
“There is momentum — there is momentum with the action that the senators and House members in a bipartisan way have taken,” Pelosi said Friday, in the latest sign that negotiators are closing in on a deal. “The tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”
President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said he’s “encouraged” by the $908 billion proposal, framing it as the type of bipartisan work that he hopes to foster as president. He cautioned that “any package passed in the lame duck session is not going to be enough overall.”
But hurdles remain. Government funding runs out in just one week, and there are still a sizable number of issues impeding an agreement on a massive spending package that would increase agency budgets for the rest of the fiscal year.
The sheer number of outstanding items at such a late stage makes it increasingly likely that congressional negotiators will require a brief stopgap spending bill to complete their work before leaving for the holidays. Such a decision could be made early next week if lawmakers fail to make significant progress over the weekend.
Pelosi demurred when asked about the possibility of a short-term stopgap to buy more time for talks, and dismissed the need for a longer term continuing resolution that would extend current government funding into early next year.
“We will take the time that we need,” Pelosi said, while acknowledging that a number of issues remain, including some outside of appropriators’ jurisdiction.
“Don’t worry about a date,” she added.
While appropriators in both chambers remain optimistic that they’ll finish their work before the holidays, Republicans and Democrats are still swapping offers and arguing over details, kicking some of the most difficult items up to congressional leaders.
For example, a House Democratic aide close to the talks said Republicans want to scrub any mentions of Covid-19 from the omnibus package entirely. Earlier this year, House Democrats added coronavirus relief to their slate of fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, while Senate Republicans have insisted that pandemic aid remain totally separate from annual appropriations measures.
Republicans are also objecting to funding for research on reducing racial and ethnic inequalities in the justice system, in addition to language that would require the Capitol Police to report on policies and procedures on eliminating unconscious bias and racial profiling during training, the Democratic aide said.
Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Democrats of holding up omnibus talks by insisting on the removal of two Interior-Environment policy riders that have been included in annual spending bills for years. The provisions involve protections for the greater sage-grouse, in addition to a provision related to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass.
“Dredging these up right now is beyond counterproductive,” a GOP aide familiar with the talks said Thursday night.
Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall also remains a perennial sticking point — Senate Republicans have proposed $2 billion for fiscal 2021, which began on Oct. 1. House Democrats have proposed no extra cash.
Lawmakers have also disagreed on detention beds for detained migrants in recent days, although Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — the top Senate Democrat who oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security — said Thursday that issue may get solved without the help of leadership.
Also in question is whether the White House will ultimately support a package that classifies billions of dollars in veterans’ health care spending as “emergency” spending outside of strict budget limits. Both House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby are moving forward with their negotiations assuming that’s the case, since the White House has previously signed off on such an arrangement.
Pelosi on Friday also said that whatever coronavirus relief they include in the government funding bill will not be the last time Congress addresses the ongoing pandemic, which continues to devastate the U.S., killing more than 275,000 Americans and causing a sharp downturn in the economy. The U.S. saw the deadliest day ever on Thursday, with Covid-19 fatalities exceeding 2,700.
“President-elect Biden has said that this package would be, just at best, just a start. And that’s how we see it as well,” Pelosi said.
The speaker also defended her decision to hold out for months, demanding a larger deal in the ballpark of $2 trillion or more, only to agree to negotiate this smaller package now. McConnell, similarly, refused to come off his much smaller baseline over the summer — pushing a $500 billion package — resulting in a standoff between congressional leaders.
“That was not a mistake, it was a decision,” Pelosi told reporters, saying the dynamics have significantly shifted since the election of Biden and the quicker than expected vaccine development. “That is a total game changer — a new president and a vaccine.”
With cautious optimism about the prospect of passing some fiscal stimulus to buoy the American economy during a bleak pandemic winter, lawmakers remain hopeful that Congress will pull it together before leaving Washington, despite lingering omnibus headaches.
“You know this place — turns on a dime,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who was elected by the Democratic caucus on Thursday as the next Appropriations chair.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this story.
Gavin Williamson Claims The UK Approved A Coronavirus Vaccine First Because It Is A “Much Better Country”
2 min read
Gavin Williamson has claimed the UK’s speedy approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was due to it being a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the US.
The UK become the first country in the world to approve a clinical vaccine for coronavirus on Wednesday after the medicines regulator, the MHRA, gave the green light for the jab to be rolled out from next week.
The Education Secretary said this is because the UK has the “best medical regulators”, dodging questions about the impact of Brexit on the approval process of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Speaking after the approval announcement on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that “because of Brexit” the UK regulator had been able to approve the vaccine without having to wait for the European Medicines Agency to do so.
But his claims were later contradicted by both No10 and senior figures within the regulator, with a spokesperson for Boris Johnson insisting the approval was “thanks to the hard work of the MHRA”.
Meanwhile, Dr June Raine, head of the regulatory agency said the green light to roll out the vaccine from next week was made “using provisions under European law which exist until January 1”.
But pressed on the impact of Brexit on the approval process, Mr Williamson instead suggested the approval was down to the UK having “much better” medical regulators than France, Belgium and America.
“Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators,” he told LBC
“Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country that every single one of them, aren’t we.”
He added: “Just being able to get on with things, deliver it and with brilliant people in our medical regulator making it happen means that people in this country are going to be the first ones in the world to get that Pfizer vaccine.”
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