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D.C. Memo: Checks, twice

The HEROES Act; Biden’s silence on Twin Metals and Line 3; and a bit on vote by mail.

photo of us capitol
On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, her proposed follow up to the CARES Act.
REUTERS/Erin Scott

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, the HEROES Act; Biden’s silence on Twin Metals and Line 3; and a bit on vote by mail. Let’s get on with this.

HEROES

On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, her proposed follow up to the CARES Act. The bill’s centerpiece is $1 trillion for state and local governments, funds that many have been asking for amid the possibility of declining revenues. It also contains another proposed round of $1,200 and $500 checks for individuals.

House Democrats in the Minnesota delegation spent late last week and the earlier part of this week making pitches to Pelosi for what they wanted to see in the bill. Pointing out that student debt falls disproportionately on low-income workers and families, communities of color, seniors, and veterans, a letter led by Rep. Ilhan Omar asked for a universal one-time federal student loan debt cancellation, long-term payment relief for all borrowers, and protections for private student loan borrowers.

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It didn’t happen. Instead, the HEROES Act provides some loan relief — up to $10,000 for payments federal and private borrowers would have had to make during this period (Democratic Leadership scaled back this provision after the Congressional Budget Office told them the cost. Instead, the debt relief is now limited to just those who were struggling with payments prior to March 12, 2020).

But Omar did get one of her proposals in the bill. The bill would provide $1,200 and $500 checks allocated in the CARES Act to anyone with a tax ID number (currently, only individuals and couples with social security numbers receive the money, excluding undocumented tax payers and their spouses). The bill also would resolve an issue called into attention by Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Angie Craig, allowing dependents over the age of 17 to receive the checks. They and their parents currently cannot access the money in the CARES Act. 

The HEROES Act also contains other money that Minnesota members asked for: $3.6 billion in funding for election assistance, more than the $2 billion amount Sen. Amy Klobuchar and election security advocates have been pushing for; $300 million for coronavirus animal research, which Craig requested; and $7 billion for child care, in the form of block grants, which is smaller than the $50 billion Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are asking for.

The House plans to vote on the more than 1,800 page bill on Friday. The Senate is unlikely to vote on the proposal and House Republicans look (almost) united in their opposition. On Thursday, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a: “totally unserious effort.”

Folks, a story about Line 3 and Twin Metals

What does Joe Biden think about the Twin Metals project in Northern Minnesota? How about Line 3, the tar oil sands pipeline that’s supposed to cut through the state? He hasn’t said.

Read more here at MinnPost.

“It’s not difficult to figure out where Joe Biden stands if he is refusing to take a position on the Line 3 replacement project or Twin Metals,” Rep. Pete Stauber said on Facebook in response to the story. “Both projects have proven that, with 21st century technology, they can provide an economic boost to the region and protect our environment.”

Biden’s stance mirrors that of Klobuchar, who hasn’t taken a position on Twin Metals or Line 3. 

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All vote by mail?

Will Minnesota be a vote by mail state anyway? MinnPost’s Peter Callaghan reports here:

Could Gov. Tim Walz do what California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom did last week: namely, impose an all vote-by-mail election via executive order under his peacetime emergency powers?

The answer appears to be … maybe.

Walz has not dismissed the possibility of imposing universal vote-by-mail for either the August primary or the November general election and is leaving a decision open to see what is happening with the virus as those elections approach.

In other news

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Hagedorn op-ed on medical treatment

In an op-ed, Rep. Jim Hagedorn writes about his struggle with cancer and why he believes hospitals need to re-open as soon as possible:

Hospitals and clinics across the nation are postponing routine visits, treatments and elective procedures to ramp up for possible coronavirus surges and save personal protective equipment. As compared with normal circumstances, North Carolina’s surgeons are not seeing nearly the number of new cancer diagnoses or follow up visits. And on the average day, thousands of patients roam the halls of southern Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. For many weeks, the Clinic and Minnesota’s fine rural hospitals have been virtual ghost towns.

Minnesota’s hospitals are set to re-open as early as Monday, while epidemiologists in Minnesota say opening up the state could have drastic consequences, especially if the number of cases in hospitals spike.

By the numbers

  • 3.0: The Minnesota Department of Health unveiled their latest and third COVID-19 modeling (dubbed version “3.0”) on Wednesday. MinnPost’s Greta Kaul has a breakdown of what each scenario means. 
  • 59-37: The Senate rejected an amendment that would have limited warrantless government searches of people’s browsing history. Both Minnesota senators voted for the amendment. You can view the vote breakdown here.
  • 36,500,000: The number of people who have filed for unemployment since March. One investment bank predicts the percentage of unemployed Americans will peak at around the same number as during the Great Depression (25 percent).

Quote of the week

“Elon Musk is Our New ACLU,”  writes a Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member this week.

What I’m reading

Suhauna Hussain for the LA Times: Grocery stores, coffee shops halt coronavirus hazard pay

Hazard pay, small hourly wage increases given to essential workers by large companies, started as a way to encourage folks to keep coming to work with health risks. But now, at many companies, it’s going away.

April Glaser for NBC: Current and ex-employees allege Google drastically rolled back diversity programs

Google is rolling back diversity programs in order to avoid being perceived as anti-conservative. A long article on some breathtakingly bad company policy.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.