On the call, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) raised the idea of passing another coronavirus relief bill in the House, something several Democrats have privately pushed in recent weeks; they’ve argued it’s better than heading into the final weeks before the election without doing anything further. But Schumer shot that idea down.
“We have to wait for them to come to us, if they don’t come to us — we will not get something your caucus can support,” Schumer said, according to multiple Democrats on the call.
But some House Democrats aren’t convinced the wait-it-out strategy will work and have started to press leadership to take some kind of action, including potentially putting bills dealing with specific aspects of coronavirus relief on the floor so that lawmakers have something to tout to their constituents back home.
Those Democrats argue that the $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill the House passed in May, known as the Heroes Act, is fading from the public’s memory and the House needs to do something now to show lawmakers are taking action despite the Senate stalemate.
“The currency of that vote is eroding,” Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), chair of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, argued on the caucus call Thursday, according to multiple sources. “Hoyer raises a legitimate question — whether we’re willing to adjourn in October with the understanding that help may not come… We want the American people that are hurting the most to know that we are fighting for them.”
Kilmer was among several centrist Democrats who voiced similar concerns about the inaction one day earlier in a call with Pelosi. Some, particularly freshmen, pressed for more votes on coronavirus legislation, such as piecemeal bills to address programs like unemployment insurance, small business assistance or stimulus checks.
Pelosi rejected the idea of lowering their party’s demands both on Wednesday and during the broader caucus call Thursday, reiterating that Democrats needed to stand behind their more sweeping legislation as the pandemic rages on.
“Members range in suggestions to voting on ‘Heroes’ again to hanging tough,” Pelosi said Thursday, according to Democrats on the call. “Most of you agree that if we hang tough, we will get a better bill.”
One idea Pelosi is considering, however, is a floor vote on a standalone bill from House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone that would provide $75 billion to strengthen coronavirus testing and tracing programs nationwide. Senate Republicans proposed $16 billion for testing and tracing in their bill this week.
Other swing-district Democrats say they’re begun to search for more options themselves. Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus have begun drafting a bipartisan proposal to amp up pressure on their party’s leaders to accept something that falls in between the two parties’ demands, possibly around $2 trillion. The GOP bill filibustered in the Senate Thursday amounted to roughly $500 billion.
Some members of the bipartisan group have even reached out to the White House about their plan. But senior Democrats say they’re skeptical that it could make either party budge.
“We’re doing everything we can to get both sides back to the table,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a co-leader of the group along with Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). “We can’t wait until January.”
The calls for Democratic leaders to put more coronavirus bills on the floor have been growing for weeks. When the House returned in August to vote on a rescue package for the U.S. Postal Service, several Democrats urged Pelosi to couple that vote with one on broader economic recovery legislation. Pelosi and her team ultimately decided against any additional votes.
Concerns about the inaction have only escalated since then, with party leaders making no progress in negotiations and ultimately halting talks altogether. Pelosi and GOP officials haven’t met in person since early last month and a call between the speaker and Mnuchin last week yielded no results.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, said he has personally urged party leaders to take up a bill that deals with the most immediate needs, such as jobless benefits, small business loans or nutritional assistance, rather than holding out for one huge package as the GOP refuses to move.
“I think most Americans right now look at it and say, these people are just pathetic. They can’t come together when people are suffering and they can’t come together on a reasonable package,” Yarmuth said, referring to the public perception of Washington as a whole. “So I think showing that we’re reasonable would be important. I’d like to see us do it before we break for the campaign next month.”
At the same time, Democratic leadership is battling discontent on another front — a bill slated for a vote in the coming weeks that would legalize marijuana at the federal level.
Vulnerable House Democrats are furious about plans to vote in roughly two weeks on the bill, which they believe would fuel a barrage of GOP attack ads in the final weeks before the election despite being widely praised as a step toward racial justice.
A majority of Americans favor legalization. But some Democrats, particularly freshmen, have been spooked by recent polling that showed that Trump’s “law and order” attacks had already been taking some toll, with voters — particularly in the suburbs — uneasy about calls to defund the police amid nationwide protests.
Others worried that Democrats would head into the election with their chief message being about marijuana and the rest of their agenda drowned out by Trump, particularly if they leave for recess without a coronavirus relief deal.
“We can’t fund the government, we can’t fix Covid, but yet we can pass weed,” said one Democratic aide, summing up the frontliners’ anxieties.
The bill — which would also create grant programs for people hit especially hard by the war on drugs — initially saw more support within the caucus. But several swing-district Democrats say their thinking changed after weeks of protests, some of which turned violent, and growing calls to defund the police.
A whip count by Democratic leaders this week showed some faltering support, and there has been some early talk among senior Democrats of pulling the bill from the floor schedule.
Caitlin Emma contributed to this story.
France teacher attack: Macron urges Russia to boost anti-terror fight
French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Russia to boost co-operation in fighting terrorism after the beheading of a teacher by a Russian-born man.
Mr Macron’s comments came in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who described Friday’s attack near Paris as a “barbarous murder”.
Samuel Paty, 47, was killed after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.
The attacker was named as Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old ethnic Chechen.
Anzorov was shot dead by police shortly after the attack close to the teacher’s school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of the French capital.
The brutal murder has shocked France.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Macron will attend an official memorial at the Sorbonne University to award Mr Paty posthumously the Légion d’honneur – France’s highest order of merit.
What did Macron and Putin say?
Mr Macron said he wanted to see a “strengthening of Franco-Russian co-operation in the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration”, the French presidency said.
It provided no further details about Tuesday’s phone call with President Putin.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin published a brief statement quoting Mr Putin as saying that both parties “reaffirmed their mutual interest in intensifying joint efforts in the fight against terrorism and the propagation of extremist ideology”.
What is known about Anzorov?
Anzorov was born in Moscow but had lived in France since 2008. His family is from Russia’s Muslim-majority Chechnya region in the North Caucasus.
He arrived in France with his family as refugees, French media report.
His grandfather and 17-year-old brother have been questioned and released in the aftermath of the attack.
Russia has played down any association with the attacker.
“This crime has no relation to Russia because this person had lived in France for the past 12 years,” Sergei Parinov, a spokesman of the Russian embassy in Paris, told the Tass news agency on Saturday.
Mosque closed amid mass raids
Meanwhile, French media reported that the father of a pupil accused of launching an online campaign against the teacher had sent messages to the killer before the attack.
The father – who has not been named – is accused, along with a preacher described by the media as a radical Islamist, of calling for Mr Paty to be punished by issuing a so-called “fatwa” (considered a legal ruling by Islamic scholars).
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the two men had been arrested and were being investigated for an “assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise”.
Police have raided some 40 homes, following the attack. Sixteen people were taken in custody but six were later released.
On Tuesday, Mr Macron said the Sheikh Yassin Collective – an Islamist group named after the founder of the Palestinian militant group Hamas – would be outlawed for being “directly involved” in the killing.
He said the ban was a way of helping France’s Muslim community, Europe’s largest, from the influence of radicalism.
The government also ordered a mosque to close for sharing videos on Facebook calling for action against Mr Paty and sharing his school’s address in the days before his death.
The Pantin mosque, which has about 1,500 worshippers and is situated just north of Paris, will close for six months on Wednesday. The mosque expressed “regret” over the videos, which it has deleted, and condemned the teacher’s killing.
Why was Samuel Paty targeted?
On Monday, anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said Mr Paty had been the target of threats since he showed the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class about freedom of speech earlier in October.
The history and geography teacher advised Muslim students to leave the room if they thought they might be offended.
Mr Ricard said that the killer had gone to the school on Friday afternoon and asked students to point out the teacher. He then followed Mr Paty as he walked home from work and used a knife to attack him.
The issue is particularly sensitive in France because of the decision by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
A trial is currently under way over the killing of 12 people by Islamist extremists at the magazine’s offices in 2015 following their publication.
France’s Muslim community comprises about 10% of the population.
Some French Muslims say they are frequent targets of racism and discrimination because of their faith – an issue that has long caused tension in the country.
Nigeria protests: Eyewitnesses say security forces fired at protesters
One witness at the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, said the shooting began after the lights were turned off at the Nigerian city’s Lekki tollgate. “Members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing,” he said. “They were shooting, they were firing straight, directly at us, and a lot of people got hit. I just survived, barely.”
Ogunsanya added that barricades on either side of the scene were blocking ambulances.
Another witness, Temple Onanugbo, said he heard what he believed were bullets being fired from his home nearby and that the sound lasted “for about 15 to 30 minutes.”
Speaking to CNN from the scene of the shooting, Onanugbo said he saw “multiple bodies laying on the ground,” when he arrived to help those injured.
CNN has not yet been able to confirm casualties.
The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident, according to the Lagos Governor’s spokesman, Gboyega Akosile. According to a tweet by Akosile, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also “advised security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.”
The protests at the Lekki toll gate have been mostly peaceful, with demonstrators singing the national anthem, staging sit-ins, and praying.
Earlier in the day, Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew, including the closure of all Lagos schools. Only essential service providers and first responders have permission to be on the streets of Lagos, which has an estimated population of more than 20 million people.
“Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted as he announced the 4 pm (local time) curfew.
Death and severe injuries amid the protests have been reported since the weekend.
Amnesty International said on its Twitter account Tuesday that it has received “credible but disturbing evidence” of “excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters.”
A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a city in the north of the country, after allegedly being tortured, according the human rights group. Many protestors and journalists were assaulted by police and thugs in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos on social media show dozens of cars belonging to protestors burning and Amnesty International said three people died.
“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” Amnesty also tweeted.
Other videos show a mass breakout of hundreds of prisoners from the Benin Correctional Center in Edo state in southern Nigeria. It is uncertain who is to blame for the breakout, with protestors claiming it was staged by police. The Nigeria Police Force said in a tweet that protestors carted away arms and ammunition from the armory before freeing suspects in custody and setting the facilities alight.
Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki imposed a curfew on Monday, tweeting about “disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters.”
Riot police have been deployed across the country. According to a tweet from the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday evening, the Inspector-General of Nigeria’s Police has ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of anti-riot police officers “to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and secure critical national infrastructure across the country.”
Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges
Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.
The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.
On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.
The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”
Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.
A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.
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