Congress and Trump thrown lifeline on pandemic relief legislation

A late effort to find a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on further pandemic relief may provide a path out of the stalemate.

Members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released a $2 trillion package Tuesday meant to appeal to both parties. The proposal includes measures to bring back the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and direct checks of $1,200 or more for taxpayers.

The package is closer to what Democrats want in terms of size. Democrats are seeking a package worth at least $2.2 trillion after initially proposing a measure worth up to $3.7 trillion. Democrats blocked a GOP relief bill worth about $500 billion, arguing the package was insufficient. Tuesday’s Problem Solvers proposal is a last-ditch effort to pass coronavirus relief before Congress leaves the capital for the remainder of the election season.

Senate Republicans are warming up to the House proposal. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who helped write the GOP bill blocked last week, said the Problem Solvers Caucus proposal could pave the way to a deal that can pass Congress.

“There’s a deal to be had here,” Blunt told reporters. “We are looking carefully … at the Problem Solvers’s proposal today.”

The problem of how much and how to fund state and local governments remain, Blount said.

House Democrats have insisted on aid for state and local governments, including $1 trillion in funding in their own legislation. Republicans oppose such funding out of fear that it would reward governments that have been fiscally irresponsible for years. They have pointed out that only a fraction of funding passed in the last round of relief has been spent. They also insist that any aid to states must be spent on solving problems related to COVID-19 and not on bailing out mismanaged pension systems that are badly underfunded in several states.

It is not clear what sacrifices Democrats would be willing to make in order to make a compromise with Republicans. While Democrats insist that $2.2 trillion is the starting point, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, negotiating on behalf of the president, said the White House would accept $1.5 trillion at most. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that the Problem Solvers proposal could “provide a basis for further conversations with the speaker and leader in the Senate.”

To date, more than 6.6 million cases have been reported in the United States, and over 195,000 people have died.

Popular science magazine Scientific American has endorsed Joe Biden for president, the first political endorsement ever granted by the publication. In the endorsement, the editors wrote that President Trump “has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science” and failed in his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment,” the outlet said.

An average of 120 patients a day became infected with the coronavirus inside U.S. hospitals when the virus rebounded into the summer, according to previously unpublished data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided to the Wall Street Journal.

The CDC analyzed pandemic data reported by half of all hospitals between May 14 and July 14. The data shows that hospitals cared for a daily average of 25,900 coronavirus patients in that same time period. During the nine weeks that the CDC collected COVID-19 data from hospitals, more than 7,400 patients likely caught the coronavirus in hospitals where they sought care for other conditions.

“People should not panic,” said Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. “Hospitals are still relatively safe places. It, to me, says we’ve got to be doing more to control COVID in the hospital.”

JPMorgan Chase sent home some of its workers after an employee in equities trading tested positive for the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported. News of the infection in the Manhattan building was communicated to employees on Sunday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Workers began returning to offices after Labor Day, less than a week ago. The company also announced last week that most senior sales and trading employees will have to return to their offices next week.

A JPMorgan spokesman said he couldn’t comment on individual cases but that the bank has been “managing individual cases across the firm over the course of the last few months and following appropriate protocols when they occur.”

AstraZeneca’s clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate remains on hold in the U.S. after the company halted trials on Sept. 6, when a volunteer in the United Kingdom suffered a severe adverse reaction, Reuters reported on Monday. The drugmaker and its partner, the University of Oxford, restarted U.K. trials on Saturday. Further enrollment of new study participants in the U.S. remains stopped pending an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration and an independent safety panel.

A new Pew Research Center poll of 13 nations shows that America’s reputation has declined over the past year. A median of just 15% says the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, while 85% said the U.S. has handled it poorly. The international approval ratings of Trump remain low, with Japan giving Trump the highest rating at 25%. A median of 16% said they have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs.

“I still think there is admiration for the United States, but it may be waning very quickly — especially if Trump gets reelected,” Sudha David-Wilp, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told the Washington Post.


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