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Ford F-150 goes viral after providing generator power to Texas home during pandemic

A Ford F-150 that provided generator power for a Texas man's home after the winter storm devastating the area went viral.      
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Amanda Gorman Says She Was Racially Profiled Near Her Los Angeles Home
Gorman said she was followed home by security guard who demanded to know where she lived because she “looked suspicious"
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The NHL will hold a hearing on Tom Wilson’s hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo
Wilson hit Carlo along the boards late in the first period of Friday's game against the Bruins.
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The NHL will hold a hearing on Tom Wilson’s hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo
Wilson hit Carlo along the boards late in the first period of Friday's game against the Bruins.
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Biden's $1.9T Relief Package, Including $1,400 Stimulus Checks, Passed in Senate
Votes fell largely along party lines, with all 48 Democrats and the two independents that caucus with them supporting the package and 50 Republicans objecting.
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Senate passes Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill
The Senate passes its massive Covid relief bill after an overnight session. It includes checks for many Americans and now goes to the House for a vote. Follow here for the latest from Capitol Hill.
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Senate Approves $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill After Insane All-Night Debate
Leah Millis/ReutersThe number-one item on Democrats’ agenda this year—a sweeping coronavirus relief package—has cleared its biggest hurdle on the way to becoming law: the evenly-divided U.S. Senate.On Saturday afternoon, the Senate passed the $1.9 trillion bill on a strictly party-line vote: All 50 Democrats voted in favor of the bill and all 49 Republicans opposed it, but Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) was absent for the vote, sparing Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie.The process wasn’t meant to be easy, but the bill’s journey to passage was downright shambolic, even by congressional standards. The Senate was in session for over 24 hours, voting, debating, and considering amendments to the mammoth legislation. Much of the delay stemmed from one member, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose reservations about the bill’s unemployment benefits unexpectedly froze the floor for nearly 12 hours on Friday as Democratic leadership and the White House frantically worked him to support the latest deal.Read more at The Daily Beast.
5 winners and 3 losers in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives to the Capitol for a vote in Washington on Thursday, March 4, 2021. | Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images. Sen. Joe Manchin is a winner in the stimulus bill. Losers: deficit hawks, and people hoping for a $15 minimum wage. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package is on the brink of becoming law. While it may not have been everything many Democrats hoped and dreamed of, the bill is a pretty big deal. After days of wrangling over last-minute changes to the bill text, the United States Senate passed the relief bill midday Saturday. The vote was 50-49 along party lines. It includes $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, extends expanded unemployment until September 6, and doles out billions of dollars toward vaccinations, testing, state and local governments, schools, and businesses. Much of the back-in-forth in recent days has been over making small changes to the legislation on the margins — margins, to be clear, that will affect millions of people. The scope of stimulus check recipients was scaled back, so that they will go to people making up to $75,000 a year ($150,000 for couples) and phase out at $80,000 ($160,000 for couples). Previously, the phase-outs were set at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. That change cuts eligibility for an estimated 12 million adults and nearly 5 million children, though it is worth noting this bill expanded check eligibility to adult dependents, such as college students and those with disabilities. The president’s original plan was to extend expanded unemployment insurance through September, and to pay out an extra $400 a week instead of $300. There was some hope Democrats would put automatic stabilizers in the bill tying supports to economic conditions, but they didn’t make the cut, and a federal minimum wage hike will have to wait for another day. The legislation will get much needed help to a lot of people, and that is a win for them. That a bill this sweeping exists at all was not guaranteed: had Democrats not won both Georgia Senate runoffs in January, it would look far different, or maybe not even exist at all. Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which is now headed back to the House of Representatives and likely to President Biden’s desk in the days to come. Winner: Social democracy In 2014, sociologist Lane Kenworthy published an ambitious book titled Social Democratic America. Kenworthy argues that not only would America benefit from a more expansive welfare state, but that it likely will adopt such a social democratic model in the coming years. This prediction rests in part on a two-step theory about how the US welfare state expands. First, policymakers become aware of a problem that’s best solved by expanded social benefits in order to solve — poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, for example. Second, the program designed to solve it — Social Security, in this example — becomes so popular and entrenched that it’s impossible to roll back. Kenworthy’s analysis helps us understand why the consequences of the stimulus bill’s direct cash provisions — the $1400 checks and the expanded child tax credit — could end up being even bigger than we think. In theory, these programs are designed to address the specific problem of families suffering from the Covid-caused economic disaster. In practice, they’re likely to prove so popular that there will be increased demand for more government direct provision of checks both in crises and outside of them. Proposals like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)’s child allowance, in which the government would send monthly checks to families of young children in perpetuity, are all of a sudden looking more and more like plausible legislation. Indeed, all of this was set up by the initial decision to include $1200 direct checks in last March’s stimulus bill. As my colleague Dylan Matthews writes, it seems like we’re already seeing the idea of direct provision catch fire: Cash’s bipartisan popularity, and its ability to muster large-scale public interest and support, suggests that the future might involve a lot more policies like checks — even when the pandemic has passed. Covid-19, in other words, may have done what years of basic income advocacy could not do on its own: convinced our political class that handing out cash is a good, popular, economically effective policy. We could very well be seeing Kenworthy’s social democratic ratchet effect in real time: an economic crisis best solved by expanding government, and the popularity of this government expansion leading to its institutionalization. The US is certainly a long way from a European social democratic model, but the stimulus bill may prove to be a major step in that direction. — Zack Beauchamp Loser: Deficit hawks The Democratic left faced a few setbacks during the debate over the Covid relief bill. Moderate Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) successfully pushed to deny direct payments to individual Americans making over $80,000, a change that’s likely to make the bill less popular while only cutting $12 billion from a $1.9 trillion package. And the bill does not include a $15 minimum wage, a reform championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But these setbacks only marginally decrease the ambitiousness of one of the most aggressive spending bills in American history. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the federal government spent a total of $4.4 trillion. So this $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill costs more than 40 percent of the total amount that the government spends in a typical year. If you lived through President Obama’s first term, the extent of the Democratic Party’s turn away from deficit hawkery is nothing less than miraculous. In 2009, at the height of the deep recession that began the previous year, Obama signed an $800 billion stimulus bill intended to jumpstart a struggling economy. Economists now view this mix of spending and tax cuts as far too small. The US economy stopped hemorrhaging in the wake of Obama’s efforts to fix it, but the Great Recession gave way to years of sluggish growth. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Obama could have secured significantly more funding given the politics of this era. Even his own advisers split on whether the Democratic Party should risk being labeled the party of fiscal profligacy. Two years later, after Republicans took control of the House in 2011, Obama negotiated with Republicans for a “grand bargain” to slash the deficit. He even offered to cut programs that Democrats traditionally view as sacred and untouchable, such as Social Security. And it’s likely that Obama would have agreed to such cuts if Republicans hadn’t killed any chances of a grand bargain by refusing to allow higher taxes on the wealthy. A decade later, fiscal politics have changed dramatically. Obama’s cautious approach in the 2009 stimulus bill did nothing to protect Democrats from brutal loses in the 2010 midterms. And, after Obama agreed to spending cuts in 2011 and 2013, the economy grew at a steady but unimpressive pace for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. President Biden, for his part, believes that one of the lessons of the Obama years is that caution is no virtue in the midst of an economic crisis. “One thing we learned is, you know, we can’t do too much here,” Biden told reporters shortly after taking office. “We can do too little. We can do too little and sputter.” And the rest of the party appears to agree with him. Every single Senate Democrat and nearly every Democratic House member voted for the Covid-19 relief bill. Deficit hawkery has taken a back seat in the party, for now. — Ian Millhiser Loser: Moderate Senate Republicans In early February, moderate Senate Republicans were riding high — confident they could strike a deal with President Joe Biden on Covid relief. A group of ten Senate Republicans scored the coveted first Oval Office meeting with the new president, sitting down with Biden in-person before even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Republicans thought Biden’s $1.9 trillion bill price tag was far too high, so they proposed a $618 billion counter-offer. “I am hopeful that we can once again pass a sixth bipartisan Covid relief package,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters as she exited the Feb. 1 White House meeting. That was about as far as bipartisan talks went. A few weeks later, Collins had pretty much soured on the prospect of getting a bipartisan deal done, telling Capitol Hill reporters that talks with the White House had “stalled.” There was no real middle ground to be had on Covid talks; the administration was sticking to its opening bid. “The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure and that’s a major obstacle,” Collins told reporters in late February. Even though the White House had said they were willing to negotiate — and certainly, some things in the final bill were different, like the lack of a $15 minimum wage — the final bill price tag is remarkably about the same as what it was when Biden first announced it. Moderate Republicans who had gotten overtures from the White House found themselves largely left out of the process because public polling indicated the bill was broadly popular with voters of both parties. And Biden and his top economic advisers had absorbed the lessons of the Obama era on stimulus; namely that going big on the economy when you have the chance is preferable than going small. Speaking to reporters, Collins blamed Biden’s top staff, namely White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, more so than Biden himself. “He’s doing a good job at outreach,” Collins said of Biden. “He was very attentive and gracious, into the details; there was a great discussion. And Ron was shaking his head in the back of the room the whole time, which is not exactly an encouraging sign.” Moderate Republicans ended up losing out on the first major bill of the Biden era. The remaining question is whether this could come back to hurt Biden in future congressional negotiations on his forthcoming infrastructure plan, or other big legislative priorities. — Ella Nilsen Winner: Small (and big) businesses that fought a minimum wage hike The Chamber of Commerce and businesses big and small have fought against hiking the minimum wage for years. In the Covid-19 relief package, they racked up yet another victory on that front: Not just the Senate parliamentarian rule that it couldn’t be passed through budget reconciliation, but the fact the $15 federal minimum wage amendment was defeated with eight Democratic votes. The federal base rate will remain at $7.25, where it’s been since 2009. That Democratic lawmakers gave up relatively easy on the fight for $15 for now draws attention to a glaring reality: there’s not consensus among the caucus that it’s a good idea. Sen. Manchin has been quite clear he’s not into the $15 idea. He’s not entirely opposed to raising wages at all, he’s just like something smaller, say, $11. There’s no denying that many small businesses have struggled during the pandemic, and that even in normal times, running a business — including paying employees — is hard. But it’s also hard to argue that $7.25 is a living wage anywhere in America under any circumstances. Many cities and states indeed are already requiring higher wages, and again, any wage increase would phase in, it’s not like everybody is going to have to pay $15 tomorrow. “Sometimes it’s lost on folks on folks that the wage increase is gradual,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director at the National Employment Law Project. She also emphasized the way that a low minimum wage disproportionately impacts certain groups — namely, Black and Hispanic works, particularly women. “More than half of Black folks live in the South, so when we’re talking about raising the minimum wage, that’s the only way it’s going to be raised in the South,” she said. Democrats say they’ll keep pushing on the minimum wage — if and when that push will turn into law remains unclear. They may find some consensus on the matter, but they haven’t yet — a Senate amendment to put a $15 minimum wage back in the Covid-19 bill was voted down on Friday, with 58 senators voting against it. — Emily Stewart Winner: Joe Manchin Sen. Brian Schatz walks past Sen. Joe Manchin in a hallway of the Capitol.“Your highness,” Schatz greets him.Manchin acknowledges his colleague, keeps walking.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) February 2, 2021 It’s good to be the king. And when you’re Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the pivotal vote in a 50-50 Senate, representing a deeply conservative state and knowing Democrats are lucky to even have you, you’re the king. The pandemic relief bill passed by the Senate unmistakably bears Manchin’s stamp. The Senate parliamentarian may have technically scuttled the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase by ruling it non-budgetary, but it was Manchin’s opposition to the underlying policy that doomed any chance of fixing it. It was Manchin, too, who insisted on capping check eligibility at $80,000 incomes (for childless single filers) rather than $100,000. That was even before Manchin decided to make a real spectacle on Friday, by threatening to derail a deal that progressive and moderate Democrats had struck that morning on changes to expanded unemployment insurance. To satisfy the moderates, progressives had agreed to cut the additional UI benefits from $400 per week to $300 per week — but they’d last through September, and federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of benefits would be forgiven. The White House endorsed the deal and the Senate seemed set to move ahead. But Manchin decided that deal wasn’t good enough for him — and that he might well vote for a competing Republican amendment on the topic. For procedural reasons, Democrats held open their previous floor vote for over ten hours — setting a Senate record — so they could frantically negotiate with Manchin behind the scenes. In the end, Manchin agreed to their proposal with fairly minor additional changes (the tax forgiveness on UI benefits would not apply to wealthier households, and the benefits would cut off in early September rather than late September). Some of his other demands may have been substantively, and perhaps even politically, ill-advised, as well. His changes to the checks created a situation where at least some upper-middle income earners who received checks under Trump will not get checks under Biden. The White House estimates 2 percent of households (3.5 million) who received at least some money from the December relief package won’t get any from this one. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy estimates 5 percent of adults are left out as compared to House Democrats’ bill. Disappointing those people results in saving just $12 billion in what’s still a $1.87 trillion package. So there’s a strong case that, as the Nation’s Jeet Heer writes, all this was “gumming up the work for the sake of gumming up the works, pure performative centrism without rhyme or reason.” But removed from substance, the crux of what happened is: Manchin made demands, and Democrats agreed to them to secure his vote. Because of that, he gets to be covered in the press as having forced difficult changes to the bill rather than simply going along with what Biden wants — even though, in the end, he really did go along with the vast majority of what Biden wanted. He knew he had leverage, and he used it. —Andrew Prokop Winner: Millions of Americans who need the help On Friday, as Senators debated the relief bill, Pew Research Center released a survey on how Americans are experiencing the pandemic economy. Its findings were pretty staggering: 39 percent of upper-income adults say their financial situations had improved over the last year, meanwhile, 32 percent of lower-income adults said they’re worried about being able to buy food, and similar numbers said they’re worried about the cost of health care, paying their mortgages, and losing their jobs. While the stimulus bill isn’t perfect and certainly could have been more generous — unemployment insurance benefits kept at $400 instead of $300, the stimulus checks with a higher phase-out — it’s going to get some meaningful assistance to a lot of people. The US is still some 10 million jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic, and expanded and extended unemployment will be there to support workers as those jobs begin to return. The House version of the bill had $400 in UI benefits until August 29. Now, the Senate version has $300 in weekly benefits until September 6. The package also contains an all-important provision that the first $10,200 in benefits won’t be taxable for households with incomes up to $150,000, preventing many workers from receiving a surprise tax bill they might not be able to pay. Some people who qualified for stimulus checks before won’t this time around because their incomes are too high, but adult dependents — including college students and those with disabilities — will be eligible for checks for the first time. The expanded child tax credit and earned income tax credit will mean real money to real people. And, of course, funds toward testing and vaccines will hopefully make the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel a little closer and a little brighter. Democrats and many economists have warned that the risk on the economy is doing too little, not too much. We won’t know where this falls in all of that until years from now, but Biden set out to take a big swing to help a lot of people, and he did it. — ES Winner: Private insurance The stimulus package would be the most significant step in the last 10 years toward patching up some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act. The most effective provision would be a two-year expansion of the ACA’s premium subsidies, which Americans can use to purchase private health insurance on the marketplaces the law established. The relief bill would increase the size of the subsidy for those already eligible for assistance (people making between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level). It would also extend subsidies for people earning more than 400 percent of the poverty level, ensuring that nobody would pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for health coverage. This would provide help to one of the populations left out of the ACA: the roughly 2.6 million people who make too much money to qualify for subsidies and are currently uninsured. Based on prior estimates of such a proposal, somewhere between 4 million and 5 million people would be expected to gain coverage as a result of expanding the subsidies. The Biden administration has already opened ACA enrollment to everybody until May 15, which would give people an immediate opening to take advantage of the new benefits. — Dylan Scott Loser: Expanding Medicaid to remaining Republican states Democrats are also trying plug one of the other biggest holes in Obamacare: the so-called Medicaid expansion gap. The 2010 law was written with the intention that every state would expand the program to people living in or near poverty. But then the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid; they must have a choice. As a result, 12 states have for the last decade refused Medicaid expansion, and an estimated 2.2 million Americans who would have been otherwise covered by the expansion are still uninsured and have no other realistic option for affording coverage. Most of them live in the South and they are disproportionately Black. Democrats now are offering a new enticement for the holdout states to expand Medicaid. Already, under the ACA, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the expansion’s costs. Under the stimulus bill, newly expanding states would also receive a 5 percent bump in the federal funding match for their traditional Medicaid programs for two years. Because the traditional Medicaid population is significantly larger than the expansion population, the funding bump is projected to cover a state’s 10 percent match for expansion enrollees and then some over those two years. But conservative state officials don’t sound interested in taking it. Based on an informal survey of the states yet to expand Medicaid, the provision in the stimulus bill that provides increased funding for states that expand the program now may end up having no effect at all. That would mean millions of people in poverty remaining uninsured. I hopped on a press conference this week with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to ask him whether the new funding incentive would prompt him to reevaluate the decision to refuse Medicaid expansion. “No, sir, it will not,” was his answer. I heard the same from other governors’ offices in the non-expansion states. “The Governor remains opposed to the expansion of Medicaid in Florida,” Cody McCloud, spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), said in an email. Laine Arnold, a spokesperson for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), said the governor was focusing on implementing the state’s new Medicaid block grant approved in the final days of the Trump administration. “Governor [Kristi] Noem knows that expanding Medicaid is not the answer to accessing quality healthcare in South Dakota,” Ian Fury, a spokesperson for the South Dakota Republican governor, said in an email. Their intransigence has created a bizarre disparity for the stimulus legislation, which will likely succeed in extending more generous premium tax subsidies to middle-class Americans but appears destined to fail in covering uninsured people in poverty. If Democrats are serious about closing the Medicaid expansion gap now that they control Congress and the White House, they’ll need to find another way. The stimulus bill is not going to get the job done. — DS
Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package
The package delivers a new round of financial assistance to Americans grappling with the impact of the pandemic. The House will need to vote on the final version.
The Senate just passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Here’s what in it.
Senate Democrats united to pass the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. | Getty Images The package includes funding for stimulus checks, vaccine distribution and school reopenings. The Senate — following a grueling vote-a-rama on Friday and Saturday — has finally approved a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. The legislation, which passed 50-49 on a purely party-line vote, with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) not voting due to a family funeral, now heads back to the House where a vote is expected as early as Tuesday. This step is significant and follows immense back and forth in the upper chamber over multiple provisions, including some — like the $15 minimum wage — that were stripped out for procedural reasons, and others — like unemployment insurance — which have been changed in response to pressure from moderate Democrats. The relief bill, once it comes to fruition, will include a massive boost for businesses and workers who are still reeling from the ongoing fallout of the pandemic: As of February, 18 million people were still receiving unemployment insurance and nearly 100,000 businesses had permanently shut down. This legislation includes funds aimed at addressing these needs, as well as tens of billions to help with vaccine distribution, over $170 billion to boost schools, and $350 billion in direct state and local aid. In the Senate’s final version of the bill, many provisions are consistent with what the House proposed, while other measures have been changed: The overwhelming majority of Americans will still receive the $1,400 stimulus checks, for example, but a slightly smaller number now. Those checks were previously phased out at the $100,000 threshold for single individuals and the $200,000 mark for couples, and the new cutoffs are now at $80,000 and $160,000, because Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had pushed for a more targeted bill. On unemployment insurance, too, lawmakers have reduced the enhanced weekly payment from $400 to $300 and made up to $10,200 of the aid people receive non-taxable for those with household incomes of $150,000 or less. The House is ultimately slated to take up the Senate version of the bill shortly and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. The Senate vote on Saturday cleared a serious hurdle for the legislation and means that the long-awaited stimulus could soon be approved. What’s in the bill Much of the Senate bill is quite similar to what’s in the legislation the House of Representatives passed in late February. However, there were some changes in the Senate proposal that will make a difference in who gets relief and how much — perhaps most notably, on stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. Here are some key highlights of what’s in the Senate legislation: $1,400 stimulus checks. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about who will get stimulus checks, and after lots of haggling, Democrats finally landed on some parameters. The bill would distribute $1,400 stimulus checks to single people earning $75,000 and $150,000 for couples. Payments would then be reduced and phased out for single people making up to $100,000 and couples making up to $200,000. During Senate negotiations, lawmakers changed the parameters around the phase-outs. Now, stimulus checks phase out for single people at $80,000, head of household filers at $120,000, and couples at $160,000. That means some people won’t get stimulus checks who have in the past. However, it is worth noting that the legislation also includes checks for adult dependents, such as college students and the disabled, so some people will be getting checks for the first time. Unemployment insurance. As with stimulus checks, Democrats did some back-and-forth on unemployment benefits. The bill provides an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government through September 6, 2021. It also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for the self-employed and contractors, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which tacks on extra weeks of state benefits, through that date. Importantly, it makes the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits untaxable to households with incomes of under $150,000, preventing many workers from receiving a surprise tax bill they can’t pay. Tax credits: The bill expands the child tax credit to $3,000 per child up to age 17 and $3,600 for children under age 6 for 2021, and it modifies the child and dependent care tax credit so that families can claim up to half of their related care expenses. It also enhances the earned income tax credit for people without children. Obamacare premium subsidies. The bill increases the Affordable Care Act premium subsidies for two years for low- and middle-income Americans, or those making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. That would make health care through the ACA marketplace more affordable in 2021 and 2022. The bill also adjusts subsidies for people who make more than 400 percent of the poverty level to make sure that nobody pays more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage. Money for schools. The bill calls for $170 billion toward schools, including reopening and directing funds toward areas such as ventilation system upgrades, reduced class sizes, and personal protective equipment to help make schools safer, and ensures the money is directed toward public schools. Schools are required to put 20 percent of money toward learning loss, meaning efforts to make up for lost ground with students missing school. It also has funding for higher education. Vaccines, testing, and tracing: The bill directs $46 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor Covid-19. Rental assistance: Democrats are aiming to put $25 billion toward emergency assistance to renters. State, local, tribal, and territorial funding: The bill directs $350 billion total toward state, local, tribal, and territorial funding, split into 60 percent for states and 40 percent for localities. A restaurant revitalization fund: House Democrats are seeking to put $25 billion toward a new program at the Small Business Administration that would support restaurants, $5 billion of which will be set aside for businesses with under $500,000 in revenue in 2019. The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit in the pandemic — the National Restaurant Association estimates industry losses in 2020 to be $240 billion. Energy assistance: The bill directs $4.5 billion to HHS to help low-income people pay their energy and water bills. Internet connectivity: The bill establishes a $7.6 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to be enacted by the FCC to expand internet connectivity to students and teachers during the pandemic. A $15 minimum wage will have to wait for another day Many Democrats hoped to include a provision in the Covid-19 relief package that would have increased the federal minimum wage, which has been at $7.25 since 2009, to $15 by 2025. The provision did make it through the House-passed bill, but it was struck down by the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled it didn’t fit under the rules of the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to pass the stimulus. There was some hope that Democrats might find a different avenue for increasing the minimum wage to $15, including overruling the parliamentarian, getting rid of the filibuster, or finding some way to compel companies to pay a $15 minimum wage by taxing them if they didn’t. But ultimately, they forged ahead with the Senate bill without it. One thing that became clear as Democrats in the Senate tried to hash this out: a significant portion of the caucus doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. A Senate amendment to put a $15 minimum wage back in the Covid bill was voted down on Friday, with 58 senators voting against it. The legislation may not be everything progressives wanted, but the bill’s passage in the Senate is an important step toward getting millions of people help.
Harry and Meghan: From royal romance to palace rift
This wasn't how the fairytale was supposed to play out. The beloved bachelor prince had finally found his perfect match, culminating in an elegant, star-studded castle wedding. Less than three years on, the intensifying row between the Sussexes and Britain's royal family has captivated the globe. Never before have we seen the monarchy machinery exposed quite so publicly.
Harry and Meghan: From royal romance to palace rift
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Malcolm X's childhood home gets historic designation
The house, built in Boston in 1874, is where Malcolm X spent part of his teenage years.
Fort Lauderdale party spot bans spring breakers
The coronavirus is causing one Florida hotspot to cancel spring break. The Wharf in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, posted a notice on Instagram that through the end of the month, it will only serve out-of-state customers who are 23 years old and up. And despite partying crowds on the beaches during the day Friday, the South...
Mark Pavelich, member of 'Miracle on Ice' 1980 Olympic hockey team, dies at 63
Mark Pavelich, a member of the "Miracle on Ice" 1980 Olympics US men's hockey team, has died at age 63.
‘Vaxi taxi’ helps alleviate vaccine anxiety in the UK
It’s the “Vaxi taxi” to the rescue in Britain for people worried about how to get to a vaccination center. Stagehand Leslie Reid, 48, said the cab was a godsend for him because he has a compromised immune system and feared taking public transportation to get a vaccine, the AP reported. He was thrilled when...
Fauci Says CDC Guidance on What to Do Once You're Vaccinated Coming 'Within Days'
The health official told host Tiffany Cross that it will be okay to relax indoor COVID-19 restrictions when all people present at a gathering are fully vaccinated.
"15 Percent Pledge" calls on retailers to commit space to Black-owned businesses
The "15 Percent Pledge" calls on major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelves to Black-owned businesses.
USC vs. UCLA prediction, line: Under is the play
The battle for Los Angeles will be renewed on Saturday as USC visits a UCLA bunch that is out to avenge a 66-48 loss in February. UCLA has scored at least 74 points in four of its past five games. The Bruins have converted 51.6 percent of their field goals in this stretch while averaging...
Virginia is using dogs to ‘terrify and attack’ prisoners, say lawsuits that describe one man as mauled in his cell
During another attack, an officer reportedly told a dog “Good boy” as it bit and dragged an inmate.
In Our House, Dr. Seuss Was Contraband
My mother had a ban on pork, and I thought she was mad that I broke it. One afternoon four decades ago, when I was about 8, I walked into my family’s house after playing outside and saw my mother sitting in the yellow recliner with a book in her lap. She had found the copy of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.I knew that I was in trouble, because normally no one sat in the canary-colored La-Z-Boy, a throne reserved for my grandmother. Another member of the family occupying it automatically meant that something very serious had happened­. Seeing the book she was holding, I briefly assumed that its subject was the problem; consuming unclean swine meats was a sin in our church.But the real issue, I soon learned, was that Dr. Seuss was on our family’s list of banned authors—for precisely the reason that the famous children’s book author is in the news this week: Some of his works portrayed nonwhite people in a racist way. My mother went to what I now realize were enormous lengths to shield us from negative images of Black people, a seemingly impossible task for someone raising children in 1970s and ’80s South Carolina. The intensity of her displeasure over a Dr. Seuss book being in her home—and not even one of the objectionable titles—speaks to how much labor her plan required.The book that got me in trouble wasn’t even mine. My youngest sister, Robin, had received it as a gift. But knowing that it was forbidden, my sisters placed it in my care because they were younger and I was the sibling most skilled at hiding things. I had no idea how my mother discovered the secret stash spot between my mattress and box spring. Either she knew magic, or I wasn’t as good at hiding as I had thought. Regardless, she was about to perform her duty as chief justice of our family’s House Court, and I was going to be the defendant.[Read: American cynicism has reached a breaking point]Yes, we had a whole judicial system in the Harriot home, which my mother had instituted to give my three sisters and me the chance to learn from our transgressions. There was no court of appeals. Even the neighbors knew about our system. (Of course they did. Who else would serve as jurors?)That Friday afternoon, I quickly assembled my legal defense team (my sisters), and we decided that I should throw myself on the mercy of the court. Given that I was already in trouble, it was my responsibility to conceal a wider conspiracy that included dramatic Dr. Seuss recitations. We knew that if my mother found out about our pro-pork performances, we might not be allowed back outside indefinitely. My mother didn’t play about such things. After all, she was sitting in the yellow chair!Before conservatives threw a hissy fit about Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ recent decision to stop publishing six of his books, I assumed most people knew that Seuss, despite the support he expressed for civil rights, was capable of depicting human beings of other races in demeaning ways. Painting Seuss as a victim of rabid “wokeness” is like saying police brutality is a recent epidemic that began when people started uploading cellphone footage. No, it’s in the news because some white people just started noticing. So, calm down—Dr. Seuss hasn’t been “canceled.”Trust me, I know. As someone who grew up with a mother who was saved, sanctified, and filled with the holy-but-defiant spirit of Malcolm X, I am intimately familiar with “cancel culture.” Nearly all the standard accoutrements of American youth were banned from my mother’s house. Christmas was for heathens. Toy guns were forbidden because they caused violence. I was diagnosed with ADHD—back then, it was called “Mikey is too hyper”—so, according to the American Mama Association, sugar and any food containing Yellow No. 5 dye was a pleasure meant only for weekends.In addition to banning Dr. Seuss and pork-related literature, my mother was very intentional about limiting our contact with white people. My three sisters and I were homeschooled during our elementary years. We lived in a Black neighborhood, attended a Black church, and were citizens of a country that once dreamed up an idea called “segregation,” so we didn’t have much contact with white people anyway. But my mother also altered the cover of children’s books or sometimes removed them completely if they had white faces. When she read bedtime stories, she’d substitute our names for those of the characters. She would even record cassette tapes, so that when she worked the night shift of her second job, we could still fall asleep to the sound of her reading. (Later, when I read the Encyclopedia Brown series myself, I thought, This sounds like a white version of Encyclopedia Mikey that my mom used to read!)I knew that white people existed, of course. I had seen them at the Piggly Wiggly and on television. Arthur Fonzarelli seemed cool, when we caught him on TV, and Phillip Drummond was nice enough to invite Arnold and Willis Jackson into his home. At our house, though, no white dolls were allowed. We couldn’t watch reruns of The Jeffersons or Sanford and Son simply because they depicted white people’s versions of Black people. Our entertainment catalog was mostly limited to World Book Encyclopedia, four-days-a-week church services, Sesame Street, and all the “outside” we could handle.I eventually came to see Blackness in the same way that most of America sees whiteness: as a default. At 11, I was even temporarily traumatized when I found out that the Hardy Boys were white. Discovering that they weren’t two kids from Detroit was one of the most unsettling experiences of my life. Their names were Frank and Joe Hardy!A few years ago, I asked my mother why she put so much effort into concocting this Caucasian-free cocoon. She informed me that our childhood was part of an experiment she had envisioned before we were even born. “A Black person’s humanity can never be fully realized in the presence of whiteness,” she explained. Not a single day has passed since in which I have not thought about that sentence.My mother did not hate white people any more than she hated George Jefferson or liberals hate Dr. Seuss. Her child-rearing tactics had less to do with racism than they had to do with the overwhelming presence of whiteness. Most Black children are exposed to an infinitely wide variety of whiteness, but the available depictions of Black people have been, until recently, extremely limited. Such portrayals aren’t necessarily negative as much as they are dichotomous—sassy or subservient; poor or lucky; the criminal or the hero. These are mostly white people’s versions of Black people.[Read: The end of the fictional cop]Black people’s entire existence is defined by these perceptions, while white people get to be everything. And because most Americans can’t unsee whiteness as a default, they don’t recognize that the hero of the story is nearly always white. Sometimes the villain is too. And so is the victim. And the victim’s lawyer. And the judge. And if you’re reading this and pointing out all the times when the hero or the judge in a TV show or a movie was Black, ask yourself this: Why did you notice?I don’t have an opinion on Dr. Seuss as a person. As a child, I became aware of Seuss’s illustrated stereotypes only when my mother informed me, during the sentencing phase, that his repeated use of the word ham is not what made him offensive. Today, I wouldn’t read his books to my children. But I also wouldn’t want my children to consume white people’s depictions of Black people from throughout most of American history. In fact, I’d be more astounded if someone told me that a writer and illustrator who was born in 1904 had never drawn or written something racist.The issue matters because the images children see and the words they hear are small but important parts of the person they eventually become. During my two weeks in solitary confinement (the maximum sentence imposed under House Court), my mother let me keep the contraband book. To this day, my sisters and I can still recite every word of Green Eggs and Ham.
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The last minute federal unemployment insurance compromise, briefly explained
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) questions Secretary of the Interior nominee Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. | Leigh Vogel-Pool/Getty Images Joe Manchin singlehandedly pared back federal unemployment benefits in the new Covid relief package. Early on Saturday morning, the Senate approved a modified Democratic unemployment insurance plan by a narrow, party-line vote, paring back benefits included in a still-in-the-works Covid-19 relief package that are aimed at helping the millions of Americans currently out of a job. Under the new plan, expanded federal unemployment benefits, which supplement state unemployment payments and are set to expire in mid-March — would be renewed at $300 per week through the first week of September. The first $10,200 of benefits will also be non-taxable under a $150,000 income threshold. That’s less than the $400 per week President Joe Biden called for in his initial $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier this year — but it’s what he was able to get with a fragile 50-vote Senate majority at the mercy of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Here's how UI unfolded -->1/ Biden: $400/week through Sept2/ House Ds: $400/week through August3/ Senate Deal 1 (early today): $300/week through Sept. + up to $10K in tax forgiveness4/ Senate Deal 2 w/ Manchin (just now): $300/week thru Sept. 6, + ~$10K tax forgiveness— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 6, 2021 Manchin, among the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, ground progress in the chamber to a halt for nearly 12 hours on Friday in a successful push to reduce the total cost of the package over concerns that giving people too much in unemployment insurance would discourage them from seeking new jobs and stunt economic growth. Without Manchin’s support — and that of the other 49 members of the Democratic Senate caucus — the Covid-19 relief plan would almost certainly be dead in the water, giving Manchin and his moderate allies outsized power in negotiations with their colleagues and the White House. That fact was on full display Friday, when Manchin was the lone holdout to a similar Democratic plan modeled on Biden’s proposal that would have set federal unemployment insurance at $300 per week, and kept unemployment benefits in place through the end of September. Republicans, who have also argued that generous unemployment insurance would hobble economic growth, took full advantage of Manchin’s hesitation on Friday to lobby for an amendment of their own, which would have seen the $300 per week unemployment benefit expire in July rather than September. Ultimately, Manchin signed on to both proposals, though only one will take effect. The Republican amendment, introduced by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, passed with support from Manchin, who also won concessions from Democrats on their proposal. Democrats agreed to shorten unemployment insurance by a few weeks, to a new end date of September 6, and barred those making $150,000 or more from getting a tax break on unemployment benefits. With those changes in the Democratic proposal, Manchin backed it as well, and its passage overrode the Portman amendment, according to Politico. The stimulus package has been plagued by questions over how much aid is necessary The central conflict Friday — and throughout stimulus negotiations — was over how big Congress should go to provide relief to Americans affected by the pandemic, and to fund key priories like reopening schools and scaling up a mass vaccination campaign. The bulk of the Democratic Party, including Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has coalesced behind a plan to go big on key Democratic priorities like stimulus checks and aid for state and local governments, but Republicans, who have mysteriously rediscovered their concerns about the deficit after losing power, remain unanimously opposed. A handful of moderate Senate Democrats, including Manchin, support the Democratic stimulus plan in principle, but are also leery of too much spending. Despite overwhelming, bipartisan public support for the plan, the GOP has criticized the bill as “massively excessive.” “The Administration’s $1.9 trillion #COVID19 plan adds to our national debt without creating benefit to our economy or helping people in need,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted Thursday. “This isn’t monopoly money—these are real dollars that will be paid for by our children and grandchildren.” The Administration’s $1.9 trillion #COVID19 plan adds to our national debt without creating benefit to our economy or helping people in need. This isn’t monopoly money—these are real dollars that will be paid for by our children and grandchildren.— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) March 4, 2021 For their part, ,oderate Democratic senators have succeeded in scaling back elements of the bill in recent days, including a Wednesday move to tighten eligibility for a new wave of $1,400 direct payments to Americans. “This was sort of a loose group of senators who are basically still concerned about the deficit, concerned about expenditures, and trying to ensure if we’re going to be spending $1.9 trillion that it’s directed to the people who need the most,” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said Friday. That change, as well as the reduced unemployment benefits brokered in the Manchin compromise Friday, has frustrated more progressive Democrats. “This trend is outrageous,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman tweeted Friday. “What are we doing here? I’m frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill.” This trend is outrageous:Eliminating $15/hrReducing thresholds for payments (cutting off ~400k New Jerseyans)Cuts to weekly paymentsWhat are we doing here? I'm frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill.1/— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (@RepBonnie) March 5, 2021 However, the bill is still on track to be signed into law. With a marathon-length vote-a-rama winding down Saturday in the Senate after an overnight slog, the bill is expected to pass the chamber sometime this weekend before being volleyed back to the House for another vote approving the Senate changes. After that, it can head to Biden’s desk for a signature. The Manchin compromise is a preview of Biden’s next two years As grueling as this week’s last-minute bargaining to keep the Democratic caucus together on Covid-19 relief has been, it likely won’t be a one-off occurrence. With at least two years of a 50-50 Senate ahead of him, as well as a slim House majority, Biden will almost certainly have to wage the same intraparty battles again and again to keep his legislative agenda rolling. Already, the White House has lost some of those battles: On Friday, eight Democratic senators, including Manchin, voted against an amendment to the stimulus package raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The vote was something of a moot point, since the Senate parliamentarian ruled last month that a minimum wage increase couldn’t actually be passed through budget reconciliation, but it foreshadows difficult fights to come in the Senate. Specifically, under current Senate rules, Democrats will need to win over Republican support for their priorities — such as sweeping voting rights and police reform bills that passed the House this week — to have any hope of passing them into law, and with some Republicans already signaling their opposition, that will be an uphill battle. The filibuster imposes a 60-vote threshold on most legislation in the Senate, though the budget reconciliation process allows the majority to skirt that requirement on some priorities. It’s possible for Democrats to get rid of the filibuster with their bare 50-vote majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie in her role as president of the Senate, but as with a minimum wage increase, moderate Democrats like Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have all the power, and right now, they’ve said they’re against it. It’s possible that could change — there’s increasing momentum on the Democratic side behind eliminating the filibuster — but even if it does, one part of the underlying dynamic will remain the same. As was the case on Friday, Manchin will likely remain the deciding vote — and continue to wield outsized power in the Senate.
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Bark at the Park: Dogs at MLB games
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