Pelosi’s comments appeared to be a change in direction for Democrats, one day after she and some top lawmakers had privately discussed moving ahead with an airlines-only relief bill as soon as this week. Several Democrats, including a key chairman, had been demanding urgent action on airlines with tens of thousands of jobs at stake this month.
But on Thursday, Pelosi stressed to reporters that those talks were on hold — if not abandoned altogether — until President Donald Trump was willing to come back to the table on a multitrillion-dollar package that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been negotiating for months.
“Let’s take a serious — not a skinny, not an emaciated but a serious appropriate approach — to crushing the virus,” Pelosi told reporters.
Trump, just weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 election, abruptly pulled the plug on stimulus talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin on Tuesday, one day after being released from the hospital following treatment for coronavirus.
Trump had said the talks were going nowhere and he’d rather focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to the Supreme Court, before the election and then pivoting to coronavirus relief in November. The move drew an immediate rebuke from Pelosi, centrist Democrats and even some Republicans — many of whom were hoping for a major relief deal to clear Congress before the election. Trump later appeared to reverse his decision.
Since then, it’s been nothing but confusion and mixed signals at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
That chaos continued Thursday afternoon, when Mnuchin told Pelosi in a 40-minute phone call that Trump remained interested in securing a deal on an economic stimulus package, despite repeated statements to the contrary from himself and his staff.
In the middle of their phone call, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters the White House was opposed to a larger package, noting Trump would support only narrower provisions.
“We’ve made very clear we want a skinny package. We’re for direct payments, we’re for extension of PPP, and we’d like to see an airline bailout, but not part of a larger package,” Farah told reporters.
Pelosi then referenced those comments on the call with Mnuchin, pointing out that Farah had “contradicted” Mnuchin’s own words, according to a Pelosi spokesman.
Pelosi and Mnuchin also held a call Thursday afternoon with House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Small Business Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) on how to best support hard-hit sectors — like restaurants, theaters and other small businesses.
Pelosi held a call with her leadership team shortly after talking to Mnuchin on Thursday afternoon. Pelosi characterized the negotiations on a broader bill as still very much alive but said she was still waiting to hear back from Mnuchin on several outstanding issues, according to sources familiar with the call.
Through weeks of talks, Pelosi and Mnuchin have continued to make progress toward a compromise, with Mnuchin even floating the idea of coming together on a major stimulus package — despite Trump’s earlier decision to call off talks — during a phone call Wednesday evening. But the two remain far apart on key issues, including funding for state and local governments and unemployment aid, not to mention having yet to reach agreement on a top-line number.
“When the president did his tweet, that one that said he was walking away, I think he surprised a lot of people,” Pelosi said Thursday. “I don’t want to go into who they are right now, but it was a disservice to the discussion that we were having in good faith.”
And Trump himself on Thursday signaled he could be open to a major deal during an interview on Fox Business — his first since being released from a hospital after contracting the virus.
“I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they are starting to work out,” Trump said. “We’re talking about airlines, and we’re talking about a bigger deal than airlines. We’re talking about a deal with $1,200 per person. We’re talking about other things.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. economic recovery is flagging — with layoffs mounting as federal rescue aid dries up — and the public health toll is continuing to rise. More than 210,000 American have died from the coronavirus, with millions more infected, some with long-lasting health effects.
The House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package last week along party lines. The bill was a pared-down version of similar legislation the House passed in mid-May. Both bills were roundly rejected by Republicans.
Even if Mnuchin and Pelosi did reach some kind of agreement, Trump would have to put his political muscle behind the deal to get it through Congress, where Republicans in both chambers have rejected the idea of passing another major relief deal with a price tag above $1 trillion.
And it would all have to be done while the House and Senate — not to mention Trump — are in the throes of a critical election that will determine control of Washington next year. Few lawmakers are interested in leaving the campaign trail for Washington in the dwindling days before Nov. 3.
Shortly after Trump tanked the stimulus talks, Pelosi and her leadership team began discussing a bailout package for the airlines. But the prospects of a standalone bill further dimmed on Thursday when two key Senate Republicans said they would oppose a proposed measure to bolster the sagging industry.
Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mike Lee of Utah said providing relief to the airlines “should not happen” without time to debate changes to the bill, casting doubt on the Senate’s ability to pass a standalone bill quickly, even if there were an agreement.
Toomey and Lee, who are among the chamber’s most ardent fiscal conservatives, are not alone in their opposition. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rick Scott of Florida have also expressed reservations. And with Senate Republicans aiming to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court before the end of the month, any coronavirus relief package would likely require the consent of all senators in order to pass quickly. Using several days of floor time on an airlines package could throw off Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s timeline for the Supreme Court confirmation.
“No one wants to see layoffs, but we have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer resources are used in an appropriate and equitable manner,” Toomey and Lee said in a joint statement.
But opposition to an agreement is not universal — particularly among the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection and hoping for a last minute deal.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, in a close race for reelection, said the majority of the questions he’s getting these days are about a congressional response to the pandemic. He said Republicans are “going to have to accept some provisions we prefer not to for Pelosi to get it done,” but said Democrats would simply have to back off their state and local aid position.
“The president is frustrated because Pelosi continued to come back with too much funding for states like New York and California. And the president’s still in a negotiating posture,” Tillis said in an interview on Thursday. “I believe if we were to be able to put a package together the president would sign it. The headline now is that negotiations are over, but I can tell you that there are dozens of senators talking as we speak.”
Congressional leaders had been discussing two different airline bills with key differences, including where the money woud come from and how to address tens of thousands of workers who have already been furloughed.
One bill from Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) would reappropriate unused funds from the CARES Act, along with some new money. A second bill introduced last week by House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) would consist of all new funds.
DeFazio’s bill would also compel airlines to recall workers they’ve furloughed in recent months, including around 40,000 employees who lost their jobs on Oct. 1, an issue that isn’t addressed by Wicker.
There are also tens of thousands of aviation workers who have taken unpaid leave and who could be brought back onto payrolls if the payroll support legislation is passed.
Democrats had privately discussed passing a standalone airlines bill via unanimous consent as soon as Friday, when the chamber is scheduled to be in a pro forma session. But DeFazio tried to push through his bill via unanimous consent last week only to have Republicans object.
A growing number of Democrats — particularly those with airports in their districts — had been urging their leadership to quickly approve the payroll relief. There has also been enormous pressure from labor groups, who are pushing for airlines to reverse roughly 40,000 furloughs that were finalized last week.
Burgess Everett, Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman and Maria Carrasco contributed to this report.
Democrats already angling to take out Ron Johnson in 2022
Johnson, a two-term senator who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, has been an adamant defender of President Donald Trump — and Democrats think that record will not play well in the perennial battleground in 2022.
While an announcement eight days before the presidential election might rankle some in the party for sidetracking from an all-hands-on-deck attempt to oust President Donald Trump from the White House, the move gives Nelson a head start on other Democrats expected to flock to challenge Johnson in the weeks after the presidential election.
The early start could allow Nelson to take advantage of sky-high Democratic enthusiasm that’s translated into fundraising records across the country, which could wane after Nov. 3, especially if Joe Biden wins.
Other Democrats whose names are already circulating as possible candidates include Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, who also served as the Democratic National Convention host committee finance chair. Lasry, the son of billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic bundler Marc Lasry, could quickly mount of a formidable, well-funded campaign.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who took on a national role speaking for Wisconsin in the wake of police shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent Kenosha riots, is another name in the mix, as well as state Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Nelson’s announcement coincides with an expected Monday confirmation vote on Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Nelson criticized Johnson, who, after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, vowed to wear a “moon suit” to return to the Senate and cast a vote in favor of Barrett if needed.
“I think his record, I think his behavior and what he has done and what he has said — not just the last couple of years but for the last nine years — makes him very vulnerable,” Nelson said. “Ron Johnson is an unmitigated disaster and a conspiracy nut, among other qualities. Every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses himself and our state.”
Nelson said his county — about an hour-and-a-half north of Milwaukee — has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus, putting him on the frontlines of the pandemic as the state has undergone one of the most severe spikes in the nation.
Nelson assailed Johnson for recent remarks seeming to underplay the virus, as well as Johnson’s decision to attend a fundraiser while he awaited the results of a Covid-19 test. He later tested positive. Nelson said the senator was especially vulnerable electorally because he had voted against the first coronavirus relief package.
Nelson, who rolled out an announcement video on Monday, served as a Bernie Sanders delegate earlier this year. He argues he’s well-positioned to win statewide because he’s demonstrated he can win over voters in a key swing area. He was elected three times to the state assembly and elected three times as Outagamie county executive, most recently in April. The county, which voted twice for Barack Obama, swung to Trump in 2016, along with the rest of the state.
That year, Nelson ran unsuccessfully for an open seat in Congress, losing to now-Rep. Mike Gallagher by more than 20 points.
For his part, Johnson, first elected in 2010, has not announced his 2022 intentions, refusing to rule out any of three scenarios: retirement, reelection or a potential run for governor against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers. When he last ran for reelection in 2016, Johnson said it would be his final term in the Senate — but he backtracked last year.
Even if they retain control of the Senate in next week’s elections, the 2022 cycle will be a challenging one for the GOP. Two swing-state Republican senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have already said they will retire in 2022 rather than run for reelection. Also on the ballot in two years are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who will be 89 years old on Election Day 2022.
If he does seek a third term, Democrats view Johnson as vulnerable because of his steady loyalty to Trump and controversial remarks about the Covid crisis, including downplaying the severity of the virus, even as Wisconsin hospitalizations have soared.
“We have unfortunately been snookered into this mass hysteria that isn’t even close to the real risk,” Johnson said in recent remarks to Wisconsin business leaders. “And so we’ve shut down our economy. We’ve had this economic devastation.”
Democrats have also cast Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as hyper-partisan because of his role in releasing a conflict-of-interest report on Biden’s son, Hunter, and attempting to bring outsize attention on his business dealings overseas. Democrats have also hammered Johnson for comments he’s made about everything from outsourcing to calling media coverage of coronavirus “panic porn.” He also drew a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci for comparing deaths caused by coronavirus to traffic accidents: “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways,” Johnson remarked.
Since January, Johnson’s favorability numbers have hovered in the 30s, according to the Marquette Law School poll, under-performing Trump, Evers and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
“He has defended Donald Trump to the hilt,” Nelson added, predicting that would come back to haunt Johnson.
But Republicans point back to 2016, when Democrats predicted Johnson was headed for sure defeat, only to watch him overcome former Sen. Russ Feingold, the liberal icon he had ousted six years earlier.
“He’s been a dead man walking two times before, and it just never really sticks when it comes down to the ballot box,” says Brian Reisinger, a former Johnson adviser, also referencing Johnson’s 2010 victory. “He’s the sort of person that it becomes fashionable for the Democrats and for the national Beltway media to bash him because he sticks his neck out there.”
Manchester Leaders Have Until 12pm To Accept The Government’s Coronavirus Deal Or Have Tier 3 Restrictions Imposed Unilaterally
3 min read
Leaders in Greater Manchester have been issued an ultimatum to accept the government’s offer of coronavirus support by noon on Tuesday or have tier 3 restrictions imposed on them.
Writing to the region’s mayors and council leaders, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that if the deadline was not met he would “advise the prime minister that despite our best endeavours we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”
The letter was sent just hours after the most recent meeting with Manchester representatives ended without progress, marking the end of the 10th day of talks with the government.
It is understood that the prime minister will impose the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions on the region later this week if an agreement is not reached by 12 pm on Tuesday.
Mr Jenrick said local leaders had been “so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control”.
He continued: “The deteriorating public health situation in Greater Manchester means that we need to take action urgently. We have held discussions in good faith with local leaders for 10 days in order to ensure that the measures put in place were tailored to the local community.
“We have offered an extensive package of support for local people and businesses, proportionate to the approach we have taken in the Liverpool city region and Lancashire and in addition to the wider national support.”
He added that Great Manchester has been offered £22 million to support the area’s 2.8 million people throughout the additional measures, and ministers were “open” to discussing further support.
But the city’s mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of “trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap.”
Many local officials have expressed frustration that the sum offered to Manchester is much less than other regions, with Lancashire and Merseyside getting £42 million and £44 million respectively despite having smaller local populations.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Mr Burnham said: “We’re in a crisis, and people need support in a crisis, but it does appear there’s been an abrupt change since the summer where it’s the opposite.”
Asked if he would oppose the restrictions were they imposed once the deadline passes, Mr Burnham said he would “accept that decision” as it was the “government’s prerogative”.
“But I would say to them at this point, are they sure that that is a wise thing to do because this isn’t just Greater Manchester’s problem,” he continued.
“Everywhere could end up in tier 3 over the winter and if they imposed tier 3 on places without providing that support… it will be the poorest people that will suffer the most as a result of that.
“And I would say to them that the government will be at risk of losing what public support remains for the approach that they’re taking.”
But speaking on LBC, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The important thing is to focus on saving lives”.
He said the government had been “negotiating in good faith for 10 days” but there were now fears that “there will be no ICU beds left in greater Manchester by the second week of November.”
He also confirmed to Sky News that “there’s more to come if [Andy Burnham] wants to negotiate”.
Tanzania elections: Why pop stars are hailing President Magufuli
“Bongo flava” stars are wowing the crowds in Tanzania with their election beat at mass rallies across the country.
At events for the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, the lyrics of recent hits have been changed to praise President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term in office on Wednesday.
Pop star Diamond Platnumz has remixed his popular song Baba Lao – a Swahili phrase that loosely means “Their Boss” – to “Magufuli Baba Lao”.
It not only lauds the president, but also Vice-President Samia Suluhu, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and other leaders, as well as CCM.
The opposition too have musicians on the campaign trail, though not as many.
This tactic – to appeal to young voters – is hardly surprising given that about two-thirds of Tanzania’s population is under the age of 25.
Historically too, it is not unusual for musicians to compose political songs, says Dr Viscencia Shule, a University of Dar es Salaam lecturer and expert on the performance arts.
“Artistes and musicians have been involved in the struggle for liberation in Tanzania and it continued that way post-independence. They have been used by the political class.”
‘Loyalty is key’
But Dr Shule does not believe all the praise-singing is genuine.
This mainly comes down to the strict laws introduced over the last five years to keep musicians in line – and a president who demands loyalty.
In July, President Magufuli got two long-time rivals – Diamond Platnumz and Alikiba – to attend a rally in the capital, Dodoma, where he made the musicians bury the hatchet.
Another big star, Harmonize, also came along – even though he had also fallen out with Diamond Platnumz after leaving his record label.
“I feel good when I see Alikiba seated next to Diamond. When you see Harmonize, who left Diamond, praising him in public, that’s the unity I want,” the president was quoted as saying.
But Diamond Platnumz has not always seen eye to eye with the authorities – and over the last few years has had to apologise to them multiple times.
His greatest climbdown was in 2018 when he fell foul of strict laws which include regulating the “decadent behaviour” of musicians – in the words of one cabinet minister.
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The regulations have been around for years, but are now being fully enforced by the country’s arts council, known by its Swahili acronym Basata, which often bans songs considered immoral or insulting.
In April 2018 Diamond Platnumz was questioned by police after posting on Instagram a video clip of himself playfully kissing a woman.
Eight months later he was banned from performing in Tanzania after he played a song which Basata banned for being sexually suggestive.
The song – called Mwanza – included lyrics with the Swahili word for “horny”, and dancers are seen in a video simulating sex.
At one stage Diamond Platnumz threatened to leave the country so angered was he by the clampdown.
But in the end he backed down and took to social media in December 2018, asking for “forgiveness” from Basata.
This was probably a savvy move as the musician has built up quite a business empire – with his own record label, TV and radio station.
‘The fear factor’
So it is through Basata that musicians are kept on a tight leash and have learnt over the last five years that they must knuckle down.
Even in September, Diamond Platnumz’s radio station was taken off air for a week for airing some graphic material.
“Some circumstances can push them to [sing praises] to save their own interests,” says Dr Shule says. Some musicians, often with dependents and extended families, live on the breadline.
“Some are happy to do it, just to be seen… But there is the biggest factor – fear,” she adds.
Some may believe they can get some favours from President Magufuli, including being appointed to state positions.
Diamond Platnumz’s manager Babu Tale, with whom he co-founded the WCB music label, has joined the political race and is set to become a CCM MP as he faces no rivals in his constituency.
There are other artists who are seeking political positions in the elections, most of them on a CCM ticket, including popular rapper Mwana FA.
If they don’t sing for the ruling party, they are seen as supporting the opposition”
“Artists are forced to sing for various reasons,” says Dr Shule.
“The majority of them obviously don’t want to. But if they don’t sing for the ruling party, they are seen as supporting the opposition.
“And if they are in opposition they will suffer the consequences… the opposition has really suffered,” the academic says.
A case in point is rapper Roma Mkatoliki, famed for his anti-government songs, who says he was abducted by four unknown armed men in April 2017, tortured and then dumped near the ocean in Dar es Salaam three days later.
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Last year, he was reprimanded for a song criticising the government, which radio stations opted not to play.
Rapper Nay wa Mitego was also arrested in 2017 for his song which included the line: “Is there still freedom of expression in the country?”
He has seemingly refused to be cowed, and is on the campaign trail for the opposition Chadema party.
But he has not had any songs banned over the last three years – and appears to mask any criticism in ways it would be difficult to pin down exactly what he is referencing.
In a recent track, Mungu Yuko Wapi? meaning “Where is God?” he questions God’s existence and his faith, asking why God allows dictators to exist and behave like gods.
Self-censorship has become a matter of survival these days in Tanzania – and in fact if asked, Nay wa Mitego might or might not say whether the song had anything to do with the country.
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