Editor's Note: This is our weekly politics newsletter. Get it in your inbox here.
The House is expected to pass a fourth coronavirus relief package today to replenish financial aid for small businesses and boost funding for hospitals and coronavirus testing. The bill has already passed the Senate and President Trump is expected to sign it.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Springfield’s own Rep. Richard Neal, will preside over the floor debate. But lawmakers won’t be taking up a measure from Neal’s colleague, Rep. Jim McGovern, of Worcester, that would allow for remote floor votes and virtual committee hearings.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her family are now coping with the loss of her older brother, Donald Reed Herring. He died after testing positive for coronavirus.
McGovern’s Remote Voting Plan On Hold
Don’t expect members of Congress to telecommute any time soon.
Rep. Jim McGovern’s plan to allow House members to vote on coronavirus-related matters by proxy — meaning any lawmaker working remotely could authorize a colleague in the chamber to vote on their behalf — has been put on hold.
McGovern, who chairs the House Rules Committee and released a report on the remote voting proposal last month, was all set to bring his plan to a committee vote last night — with hopes of delivering the bill for a full House vote today. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nixed that plan, announcing the formation of a bipartisan committee to study the matter instead. The move came after some Republican lawmakers voiced strong opposition to the measure.
At the Rules Committee hearing last night, McGovern fell in line with Pelosi, but said action must be taken soon.
“I’ve always said changes, if possible, should be done in a bipartisan and collaborative way,” McGovern said, speaking through a New England Patriots face mask. “And I hope that we can get there together, but I really believe inaction and maintaining the status quo is not an option.”
(McGovern today tweeted an explanation for his personal protective gear of choice: “Needed to show some @Patriots pride before the #PatsDraft.”)
Package Including Race & Ethnicity Data Collection Pushed By Pressley, Warren
The supplemental funding package expected to pass in the House includes aspects of a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to require federal collection of race-specific data about COVID-19 testing, diagnosis and mortality.
The legislation directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a report within three weeks of enactment that integrates existing demographic data on race, ethnicity, age, sex and geographic region.
Pressley called the inclusion “a meaningful step forward.”
“This will save lives,” Pressley said in a statement. “We now must work to ensure that the CDC is transparent in their data collection and reporting, and that the data is being used to effectively and efficiently get testing, treatment, and other economic resources and support to those communities most in need.”
Warren Blasts Trump’s Immigration Ban As ‘Disgusting’
Warren never got to oppose Donald Trump on the general election ballot, but since ending her own White House bid she’s kept up her criticism of the president.
Yesterday, she attacked Trump’s latest executive order, aimed at curtailing immigration during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Donald Trump has tried to boost his political future by scapegoating immigrants from the first day he ran for president,” Warren told reporters on a conference call Wednesday to promote her bill to stop price gouging of essential items. “This is one of his signature moves, and it is disgusting. The American people are not fooled. The man is not fit to be president.”
3 More Things:
— Markey seeks probe of HHS researcher’s removal: Sen. Ed Markey urged the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate a claim from high-ranking federal scientist Rick Bright that he was removed as director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after resisting White House efforts to promote the antiviral drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has frequently urged Americans to take, has been the subject of much skepticism. “Dr. Bright’s abrupt reassignment raises serious questions whether the Trump administration retaliated against him for advocating for science and against Trump’s misinformation,” Markey said.
— Neal seeks change in hospital funding factors: Rep. Richard Neal is asking the White House to change the formula by which hospitals receive congressional funding, saying it short-changes community hospitals that do not have a large Medicare fee-for-service revenue base. In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Neal argues that community hospitals — think Holyoke Medical Center or Mercy Medical Center in Springfield — serve critically vulnerable populations and need a greater piece of the funding pie. “It is imperative that hospitals that treat the most vulnerable patients, Medicaid patients, cancer patients, and children with serious illnesses, have the resources they need to treat and care for Massachusetts patients expeditiously,” Neal wrote.
— Moulton requests PPE from defense industry group: Rep. Seth Moulton has asked members of the National Defense Industry Association to supply personal protective equipment to defense workers. Moulton cited the mission statement of the association, made up of 1,700 corporate and 70,000 individual members, which says the group exists “to promote the best policies, practices, products, and technology for warfighters and others who ensure the safety and security of the nation. … Times like this is when your advocacy is needed most — for our men and women who are performing their duties to keep our country safe,” Moulton wrote in a letter to the group’s president, General Hawk Carlisle, USAF (Ret).
WHAT I'M READING
- What Covid Is Exposing About The Climate Movement (Politico Magazine)
- How Scientists Could Stop The Next Pandemic Before It Starts (New York Times Magazine)
- Is China Winning? (The Economist)
TWEET OF THE WEEK
In a pandemic, sometimes you gotta make (hair)do. It all worked out, though.
On Monday I’ll join On Point to discuss the battle over federal coronavirus relief for the states, which heated up this week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested bankruptcy may be a better route for cash-strapped states. Listen in on WBUR, or check your local NPR listings!