August 6, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has a scathing accusation for Republicans as they continue to work out a coronavirus relief bill.

It's been a week since the last CARES Act expired, leaving unemployed Americans without boosted benefits as Democrats try to push Republicans toward extending the $600/week bonus that's been in place since early in the pandemic. But Pelosi isn't hopeful Republicans will come around, telling CNBC on Thursday that "perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn." The GOP, Pelosi continued, has been too focused on "how much and how long and how targeted" the next wave of relief will be instead of just passing it quickly.

Republicans have upped their unemployment offer to $400/week, but Democrats remain firm on the $600 boost the House passed a while ago. Democrats also want to extend hazard pay to essential workers while Republicans focus on keeping the cost of the bill down. Both parties remain united on extending another stimulus check to Americans, but remain divided on a host of other issues. As Pelosi colorfully put it during a Thursday press conference, "the light at the end of a tunnel might be the freight train of the virus coming at us." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:10 p.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.), one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has faced constant threats of violence since her election in 2018. They include public threats from Republicans set to join her in the House in January — and absolutely no condemnation from congressmembers on the other side of the aisle, she tells the The New York Times Magazine.

In an interview with the Times, Omar discussed "hateful" attacks against her from Fox News' Tucker Carlson, as well as the rise of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in a far-right Georgia district who held a gun next to a photo of Omar's "Squad" in a campaign video. Greene's video is just one of many "dangerous" people spouting "bizarre, ill-informed conspiracies" about Omar and other Democrats and "terrorizing so many of us," Omar said.

But despite receiving "a few death threats that have been very publicized where people have been arrested and are incarcerated for it," Omar said she has received no support or condemnation from Republicans. "I can't remember a public statement or private comment of support," she continued.

Despite being "discouraged" by this lack of unity "sometimes," Omar said she "have hope" that "the lived reality of what exists in American cities and towns" isn't the same as what's online. Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:05 p.m.

New data obtained by The Guardian provides a more specific look at how the changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy affected the U.S. Postal Service's on-time first-class mail delivery rate after he took over the role in June.

In what North Carolina A&T history professor and former postal worker Philip Rubio described as a "remarkable graphic illustration," The Guardian shows that rates plummeted not long after DeJoy stepped in. The USPS was delivering first-class mail on time about 93 percent of the time during most of the first half of 2020, just shy of its 95 percent goal, and was averaging nearly 91 percent at the moment of leadership transition. But by August the national rate had dipped to about 81.5 percent, and was even lower in some postal districts, reaching as far south as 63.6 percent in northern Ohio and just over 61 percent in Detroit, although it's worth pointing out that Detroit had also fallen well below the national average for multiple weeks earlier in 2020, jumping back up shortly before DeJoy arrived. As The Guardian notes, those districts are both in key swing states, which will likely raise some eyebrows, given that DeJoy has already had critics accuse him of trying to slow deliveries with an increase in mail-in ballots expected for the general election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeJoy denied those allegations during congressional testimony and explained that any slowdowns that occurred were the result of a bumpy transition. DeJoy went on to pause the reforms he put in place until after the election, but The Guardian's analysis shows that delivery speed is still lagging in several districts. View the trends of delivery rates in postal districts across the country at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

Jared Kushner's coronavirus task force volunteers in charge of procuring personal protective equipment, such as masks, for virus hot spots were instructed were instructed to prioritize requests from President Trump's friends and supporters, Max Kennedy Jr., one of the volunteers, told The New Yorker.

Kennedy, the 26-year-old grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, said the group had to pay special attention to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who he said was "particularly aggressive" in demanding masks be shipped to a hospital she favored.

Per The New Yorker, Kennedy — who in April sent an anonymous complaint to Congress detailing what he described as an incompetent White House response to the pandemic — also said the volunteers were told to direct millions of dollars worth of supplies to five pre-selected distributors, and he alleges he was instructed by one of the political appointees who directed the task force to create a model altering the projected number of COVID-19 fatalities because experts' models were "too severe." Kennedy, who has experience working at investment and consulting firms and was planning to take the LSATs, said he declined the assignment, explaining he knew nothing about disease modeling.

But beyond the specific complaints, Kennedy was concerned by the administration's over-reliance on volunteers like himself, which he believed was an attempt by the White House to sidestep government experts. "It was such a mismatch of personnel," he said. Read more at The New Yorker. Tim O'Donnell

10:23 a.m.

Ellen DeGeneres is pledging to begin a "new chapter" at her show.

DeGeneres on Monday returned with the first episode of her talk show's new season, getting started by addressing the allegations that have emerged of a toxic work environment there. A BuzzFeed News report described "racism, fear, and intimidation" employees have allegedly experienced at The Ellen DeGeneres Show, while a second BuzzFeed report said that "sexual harassment and misconduct by top executive producers runs rampant" at the show.

"I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," DeGeneres said on Monday. "I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected."

DeGeneres went on to say "I take responsibility for what happens at my show," and she promised that after having "a lot of conversations" about her workplace over the past few weeks, "We have made the necessary changes, and today, we are starting a new chapter." An investigation into the workplace environment at the show was opened in July, and in August, three top producers were ousted.

DeGeneres also addressed claims that "I am not who I appear to be on TV," namely the idea that, off the air, she is not "the kind lady" she is on her show.

"The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV," DeGeneres said. "I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that. I am a work in progress." Brendan Morrow

10:18 a.m.

President Trump is seemingly just making things up about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish.

Ginsburg died Friday after a long career fighting for gender equality, capped off with decades as the most prominent member of the Supreme Court's liberal wing. The timing of her death leaves room for Trump to appoint a conservative justice to replace her — something Ginsburg was acutely aware of even as she was dying.

In the days before her death, Ginsburg told her granddaughter that "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." But in his now-weekly appearance on Fox & Friends on Monday, Trump suggested, with no evidence, that Ginsburg's wish wasn't real. "I don't know that she said that," Trump said, asking if it was written by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump's comments received criticism from Never Trump conservative Bill Kristol, who tweeted that "It's one thing to say you're not going to honor Justice Ginsburg's dying wish. It's another thing, as Trump does here, to accuse RBG's granddaughter, Clara Spera, of lying about her grandmother."

Trump also told Fox & Friends he would announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on Friday or Saturday, a week after Ginsburg's death. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:57 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new guidance has acknowledged that COVID-19 can spread through the air, CNN reports.

The CDC's website as of Friday says that "airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread" and that the coronavirus commonly spreads "through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols."

The CDC's latest guidance also says, "It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes)."

The guidance from the CDC, CNN notes, previously described COVID-19 as mainly spreading through "respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks" and within six feet. In the new guidance, when listing ways to protect oneself from COVID-19, in addition to steps such as social distancing and wearing a mask, the CDC also now says to "use air purifiers to help reduce airborne germs in indoor spaces."

The Washington Post notes that "scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the novel coronavirus is airborne" for months, and University of Colorado at Boulder chemistry professor Jose-Luis Jimenez told the Post this acknowledgement from the CDC as a "major change."

"This is a good thing," Jimenez told the Post, "if we can reduce transmission because more people understand how it is spreading and know what to do to stop it."

Additionally, University of Maryland professor Donald Milton told CNN it's a "major improvement," adding, "I'm very encouraged to see that the CDC is paying attention and moving with the science. The evidence is accumulating." Brendan Morrow

7:22 a.m.

A sizable anti-abortion minority of U.S. voters are excited at the prospect of a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court striking down or effectively neutering Roe v. Wade, but the Affordable Care Act is in much more imminent danger after the death Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 10 in a lawsuit by Texas and other conservative states, backed by the Trump administration, arguing that the entire ACA should be struck down because the GOP-controlled Congress zeroed out the individual mandate to buy insurance in 2017. The lawsuit "was largely shrugged off" when it was filed two years ago, Politico notes, but it has now "been validated by Republican-appointed justices in lower courts, and ObamaCare will have one less ally on the conservative-dominated bench when the Supreme Court considers the law's fate this fall."

"Conventional wisdom had held that Chief Justice John Roberts would likely join with the court's liberals to save the ACA once again," Axios reports. "But if President Trump is able to fill Ginsburg's former seat, Roberts' vote alone wouldn't be enough to do the trick, and the law — or big sections of it — is more likely to be struck down." Most at risk are the law's protections for pre-existing conditions, according to legal scholars following the litigation. But everything is on the table, including Medicaid expansion, coverage for people up to age 26 on their parents' insurance plans, and no-cost preventative care.

"A broad ruling against the entire ACA still requires some logical leaps," Axios notes. But "a lawsuit that once seemed like a long shot now has a much more reasonable chance at success — and that means 20 million people's health coverage really could be in the balance." Trump and congressional Republicans tried and narrowly failed to replace the ACA in 2017, and Trump has yet to release his frequently teased newer health care plan. Peter Weber

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