January 31, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has announced a proposal to reform the estate tax system and drastically raise rates for billionaires.

The For the 99.8% Act, announced by Sanders Thursday, includes new brackets to tax wealth passed down when a person dies. Under the plan, there would be a 45 percent tax on estates between $3.5 million and $10 million, 50 percent on estates between $10 million and $50 million, 55 percent on estates above $50 million, and 77 percent on estates above $1 billion. Current law taxes an individual's earnings in excess of $11 million, but Sanders would lower this minimum to $3.5 million.

Sanders says this plan, which would apply to 0.2 percent of Americans, is intended to "combat rising wealth inequality" and would ultimately "raise $2.2 trillion from the nation's 588 billionaires," although more immediately, Sanders' aides say it will raise $315 billion over the next 10 years, reports The Washington Post. In a statement, Sanders runs through a number of examples to demonstrate how the proposal would apply to specific billionaires, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is around $130 billion and whose family would pay up to $100 billion in estate taxes. The top 77 percent estate tax rate was previously law from 1941 to 1976.

As Sanders pushes for this plan, Republicans are seeking to eliminate the estate tax entirely. Sanders' proposal also comes after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled her own proposal to tax the wealthiest Americans by introducing a "wealth tax," under which those with more than $50 million in assets would pay a 2 percent tax annually, and Americans with more than $1 billion would pay a 3 percent tax annually. Like Warren, Sanders looks likely to launch a presidential run but has not yet announced his decision. Brendan Morrow

12:34 p.m.

Biden is back.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday made his first public appearance since mid-March as he visited a veterans memorial in Delaware, notably clad in a mask. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee laid a wreath in honor of Memorial Day, alongside his wife, Jill Biden, who also wore a mask.

Biden's choice to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic is in stark contrast to President Donald Trump, who often refuses to wear masks in public, fearful that he'd look ridiculous.

Biden's first outing in two months may serve as a trial run for public events, reports The Associated Press, suggesting he won't spend the remaining five months until the election campaigning from home. While advisers hope to resume campaign activities eventually, they intend to do so "when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner," said Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon, per AP. Taylor Watson

10:57 a.m.

The Trump administration sent Congress a national coronavirus testing strategy in time to meet a Sunday deadline, The Washington Post reported, citing a copy of the 80-page "Covid-19 Strategic Testing Plan" it obtained.

The report promises that the federal government will buy 100 million swabs by the end of 2020, and distribute them to states to help them expand testing. The document did not outline federal testing goals for each state, rather it listed testing targets states reported to federal officials for May. Public health officials say broader testing to determine who has been infected with the novel coronavirus and who might have immunity are key curbing the spread of the outbreak and allowing the economy to fully reopen.

The administration plan calls for every state to try to test at least 2 percent of its population in May and June. Read more at The Washington Post. Harold Maass

10:29 a.m.

A federal judge has ruled that a Florida law requiring felons to pay all court fines and fees before they can register to vote was unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Hinkle of the United States District Court in Tallahassee wrote that the restrictions amounted to a poll tax that would prevent voting by people who can't afford to pay, The Washington Post reports. "The Twenty-Fourth Amendment precludes Florida from conditioning voting in federal elections on payment of these fees and costs," Judge Hinkle wrote, calling the state law a "pay-to-vote system."

Per Hinkle's order, the state must tell felons what they owe and whether they are eligible to vote — if felons don't receive this information within 21 days, they are allowed to register, the Post reports.

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) pushed through the law after voters overwhelmingly approved a 2018 constitutional amendment restoring voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences, including probation and parole. A DeSantis spokesperson said Sunday the governor's office is examining the ruling. Harold Maass

10:12 a.m.

President Trump in series of tweets Monday morning threatened to pull the 2020 Republican National Convention out of North Carolina.

Trump tweeted that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is "still in shutdown mood" and said he would be forced to move the convention if not "immediately" given an answer as to whether coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, allowing "full attendance" in the Spectrum Center arena in Charlotte. Trump's tweets "blindsided" those involved in planning the convention, set to be held in late August, CNN reports. The Spectrum Center arena has a capacity of more than 17,500 people.

Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the Trump's comments, telling Fox News he looks forward to a swift response from Cooper, and "if need be, moving the national convention to a state that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that we can gather there."

Cooper told CNN his decision will not be political or emotional. "This is based on health experts, data and science and that's it for everybody to see." Taylor Watson

9:22 a.m.

The U.S. is likely to impose sanctions against China if it enacts a new national security law that would erode Hong Kong's autonomy, White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said Sunday.

The legislation, announced last week during China's National People's Congress, will allow Beijing to take over in Hong Kong, O'Brien said. That would make it unlikely that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could certify that the city, a former British colony, had a "high degree" of autonomy, which would result in sanctions against China under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, O'Brien said.

The comments came as thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong streets to protest the proposed security law, and Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Read more at CNBC. Harold Maass

8:31 a.m.

President Trump on Sunday said the United States would suspend travel from Brazil, after a surge in coronavirus cases made the South American nation one of the world's hotspots.

Brazil now has more than 22,000 deaths and 347,000 confirmed cases, the second most after the U.S., which has recorded nearly 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. Trump had already banned some travelers from China, Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, but not from Russia, which has the third highest number of coronavirus cases.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the Brazil restrictions another "decisive action to protect our country." Filipe Martins, who advises Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on international affairs, said the travel ban wasn't "anything specifically against Brazil. Ignore the hysteria of the press."

The ban will go into effect Thursday, and will not apply to legal permanent residents or their spouse, parent, or child. The ban does not apply to trade. Read more at The Associated Press. Harold Maass

May 24, 2020

After the coronavirus pandemic slowed the momentum of anti-government, pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, the protest movement picked up steam again Sunday after Beijing signaled it would directly impose national security laws on the city. Now, many of the young protesters believe the only two outcomes are either independence or the loss of autonomy promised in China's 1997 territorial exchange with the United Kingdom.

If the latter takes place, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien expects an economic fallout. Hong Kong, he said, has emerged as Asia's financial center because financial service firms and other businesses flocked to the city thanks to its democracy, free enterprise, and rule of law. If Hong Kong loses those defining characteristics, in O'Brien's view, because of a Beijing takeover, he can't envision how those companies can remain.

He also predicts that many Hong Kong citizens would seek a way out. "I think you're also going to have a terrible brain drain," he said. "I think Hong Kong citizens, many of whom can travel under certain circumstances to the United Kingdom or seek refuge in other places, they're not going to stay in Hong Kong to be dominated by the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party." Tim O'Donnell

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