The members of the U.S. Senate return to Washington D.C. on Tuesday for what is expected to be a tumultuous post-Labor Day stretch. Negotiations on another coronavirus relief package failed before the Senate recessed in early August and, as of Monday, there were no signs that the impasse has been resolved with the November elections only 56 days away.
While the Senate is set to reconvene Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is not expected to return in full until next week. If a deal can not be reached quickly, it is possible that nothing will get done before election day on Nov. 3.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said that another coronavirus aid package is necessary and most Republicans agree, but they balk at the size of the package that House Democrats passed in the HEROES Act back in May. While the Republican relief package proposal was more than $1 trillion, the HEROES Act was more than $4 trillion and contained provisions that Republicans objected to.
President Donald Trump was asked by reporters why he did not invite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to the White House to reach a deal on increasing stimulus into the economy.
“They don’t want to make a deal because they think it’s good for politics if they don’t make a deal,” Trump replied. “I know who I’m dealing with. I don’t need to meet with them to be turned down. … If I thought it would make a difference, I would do it in a minute.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is expected to bring a $500 billion targeted package to a vote this week. Republicans are predicting that Democratic leadership will oppose the comparatively small relief package.
Due to the 60 vote filibuster rule in the Senate, the GOP coronavirus aid package can not pass the Senate without Democratic support. If the bill fails, then it is possible that both sides will retreat into their partisan talking points and not move on a coronavirus aid package before the Nov. 3 election.
The Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program expired early last month. Without additional relief funding many businesses, particularly in the already overbuilt restaurant segment could close permanently in the coming months.
The unemployed saw their compensation checks decrease due to the expiration of the CARES Act. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has criticized McConnell for adjourning the Senate in August without passing a coronavirus relief bill.
“Mitch McConnell’s decision to adjourn the Senate without any further efforts to fulfill the Senate’s obligation to the American public during a healthcare and economic crisis demonstrates an unconscionable failure of leadership,” Jones said in a statement at the time. “Congress acted swiftly in March as the pandemic took hold and every American who put their lives on hold and stayed home for weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 did so out of a patriotic duty and a belief that it would give our government leaders time to implement a plan to get this virus under control. Now, it’s been five months and not only do we still have no national strategy, our nation is facing some of the highest rates of coronavirus spread in the world.”
The previous coronavirus aid packages have all been paid for with deficit spending and have added trillions to the debt.
The struggling U.S. Postal Service is also expected to be a continuing topic in Washington. Democrats are insisting that the USPS needs additional funds to help pay for mail-in voting. Republicans insist that the USPS has CARES Act funds that it still has not spent and does not need another bailout.
Democrats also oppose reforms and cost efficiency measures proposed by Postmaster Louis DeJoy.
Sewell votes to keep government open, extend programs
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, this week voted for a measure to continue funding for the programs contained in the 12 annual appropriation acts for FY2020. The bill, HR8337, passed the House in a final vote of 359 to 57 and 1.
“I voted for today’s legislation to avert a catastrophic government shutdown and fund the critical programs that my constituents depend on,” Sewell said.
“At a time when our country is in the middle of a pandemic and millions of Americans are losing their homes and livelihoods to natural disasters, including hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, our government needs to be fully funded and operational so that the American people can get the resources they need,” Sewell said. “I am particularly proud of the provisions Democrats secured to save our seniors from a Medicare Part B premium hike, protect health, housing, and other programs for Veterans, and to provide repayment relief for our health care providers at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The resolution provides funding for critical government programs through Dec. 11 and extends vital health, surface transportation and veterans’ programs.
“While I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans and White House didn’t come to the table to agree to pass the long-term FY2021 funding bills that the House passed earlier this year, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure a long-term funding bill is passed before this CR expires in December,” Sewell said. “Additionally, an agreement on further Coronavirus relief legislation is desperately needed. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and as the pandemic continues, municipalities, health care providers, essential workers, and small businesses are running out of resources from the CARES Act and relief is needed now.”
HR8337 included a list of programs that Sewell worked directly with House appropriators to secure in the FY2020 funding bill, which are extended in Tuesday’s continuing resolution. These include:
- Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Loans
- Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program
- Commodity Supplemental Food program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
- 2020 Decennial Census Program
- Community Health Centers
- Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program
- Special Diabetes Program
- Grants for transportation to VA medical facilities for Veterans living in “highly rural” areas
- Childcare assistance for Veterans while they receive health care at a VA facility
- An initiative to assess the feasibility of paying for veterans in highly rural areas to travel to the nearest Vet Center, a community-based facility that provides readjustment counseling and other services
The bill also funded the Department of Labor’s homeless veteran reintegration programs, such as job training, counseling and placement services.
Additionally, the legislation:
- Ensures USDA can fully meet the demand for Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership loans, especially for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
- Allows increased flexibility for the Small Business Administration to process certain small business loans and SBA Disaster Loans
- Provides a one-year extension for surface transportation programs, including federal highway, transit, and road safety programs
- Reauthorizes the Appalachian Regional Commission for one year
- Delays a scheduled $4 billion reduction in funding for disproportionate share hospital (DSH), which are hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients
- Protects Medicare beneficiaries from the expected increase in Part B premiums for 2021 that is likely to result from the COVID-19 public health emergency
- Provides repayment relief to health care providers by extending the time in which they must repay advances and reducing the interest rate under the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment program until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Allows Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use the full amount available in the Disaster Relief Fund to respond to declared disasters
- Increases accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for large oil companies
- Ensures schoolchildren receive meals despite the pandemic’s disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expands Pandemic EBT access for young children in childcare
It has been 20 years since Congress has passed a balanced budget.
Sewell is running for her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 General Election.
Resources are available to persons damaged by Hurricane Sally, Roby says
Hurricane Sally struck on the Alabama Gulf Coast as a category two hurricane on Sept. 16, but authorities, property owners and farmers are still assessing the damage.
“As Hurricane Sally moved through Alabama last week, I remained in close communication with Governor Ivey’s office regarding recovery efforts, and she ensured us that the appropriate state agency resources will be available to our counties and municipalities in the Second District,” said Congresswoman Martha Roby. “My team also stayed in contact with leaders and elected officials across the district to communicate with them our readiness to assist.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with those throughout our state who have been affected by this powerful storm,” Roby added. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices if you or someone you know needs assistance.”
“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries launched a survey to gather information from farmers and producers who experienced agricultural damages due to Hurricane Sally,” Roby said.
Separately, the Alabama Farmers Federation is also collecting information from affected farmers. For more information on disaster assistance, visit this website.
Prior to and after Sally hit our state, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has been hard at work to assist Alabama farmers and consumers. The department is gathering information from farmers who experienced agricultural damage from the excessive winds, rainfall and flooding caused by Hurricane Sally.
This information can be helpful to federal and state leaders in the aftermath of the storm.
To collect the most accurate damage assessments, the department has established an online reporting survey to simplify the process for producers who have experienced agricultural damage. Producers should visit agi.alabama.gov/HurricaneSally to complete the survey.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate. “Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”
Many farmers had a crop that was ready for harvest. Many of those farmers lost that entire crop.
“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way.”
According to the department, reportable damage would include structural, crop and livestock losses. Producers are also encouraged to take photos of damage.
Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said, “Feeding the Gulf Coast has a number of distribution and pantry options for those in who need food assistance due to Hurricane Sally. You can find the locations on their website.”
“If you have insurance, you should file a claim with them first before registering with FEMA,” Byrne said. “That will allow for the quickest response. Even if you have made a claim with your insurance company, you can still register for FEMA assistance.”
To apply for FEMA disaster assistance visit disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
They eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores but the damage stretches across much of south Alabama and the western Florida panhandle. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster by FEMA.
Brooks supports DOJ decision to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction”
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, on Tuesday said the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other “socialist Democrat elected officials” have “utterly failed to maintain law and order.” Brooks said that the lack of leadership has led the U.S. Department of Justice to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction.”
President Donald Trump issued a memo ordering financial retribution against cities that he views as having bowed to violent mobs and cut funding for their police departments. The declaration will purportedly allow the Trump administration to cut federal funding for the cities including New York, Portland and Seattle.
“Socialist Democrat elected officials running some of America’s largest cities have utterly failed to maintain law & order — one of the most basic functions of government,” Brooks said. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have willfully allowed violent anarchists to rampage so badly that the U.S. Department of Justice has designated New York City as an ‘Anarchist Jurisdiction.’ Let Cuomo and DeBlasio’s leadership failure be a warning to American voters everywhere. Placing feckless Socialist Democrats in charge is tantamount to turning your city over to violent anarchists.”
There has been national attention on rising rates of shootings in a number of large cities.
“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance.”
“It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr added.
White House budget director Russ Vought is set to issue guidance to federal agencies on withdrawing funds from the cities in less than two weeks. The DOJ said that the list of cities eligible for defunding will be updated periodically.
It is not yet clear what funds are likely to be cut. New York City gets roughly $7 billion in federal funding.
New York City Council passed a budget this summer that cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion annual budget amid protests against police brutality.
Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.
Rogers disappointed Democrats have not offered a Homeland Security reauthorization
Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, wrote an editorial in the Washington Examiner saying that he is disappointed but not surprised that Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package for the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s been over 1,100 days since the last Department of Homeland Security authorization bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Rogers said. “And as we approach the end of the 116th Congress, the chances grow thin of the majority introducing legislation to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the resources and authorities it needs to stop the growing threats to our homeland.”
“I wish I could say I’m surprised Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package,” Rogers wrote. “However, this is the party that started out this Congress with calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Rogers slammed House Democrats for what he claimed is a trend of becoming increasingly anti-law enforcement and ignoring “violent mobs” that have been rioting in many major cities.
“This is the party that last year called the unprecedented migrant surge at the Southwest border a ‘Fake Emergency,’ and took half a year to vote on critical humanitarian funding to address the crisis,” Rogers said. “This is the party that turned a blind eye as violent mobs took over cities across our country. It’s reached the point that now some on the left are calling for the abolition of DHS and the defunding of our police.”
Rogers said that while Democrats have done nothing, House Republicans have introduced a two-year reauthorization bill in The Keep America Secure Act.
Rogers said that The Keep America Secure Act will provide DHS with the resources and authorities that the department needs to stay ahead of evolving threats and position DHS to be successful on new battlegrounds.
Rogers is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee
Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. He is seeking his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in this Nov. 3’s general election. Adia Winfrey is the Democratic challenger.