October 6, 2020

President Trump on Tuesday announced he's rejecting congressional Democrats' latest coronavirus relief bill package, but went a step further than usual this time by apparently telling his negotiating team, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to halt talks "until after the election."

Trump's issue with the Democrats' proposal was that it was, in his view, asking for funding to cover matters "in no way related to COVID-19."

Mnuchin was reportedly scheduled to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for more talks Tuesday, but it sounds like that won't end up happening.

If the White House follows through on the declaration, the efforts will be placed on hold until at least Nov. 3. After that, the president promised Congress a "major" relief bill. In the meantime, Trump said he wants the Republican-led Senate to focus on confirming his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Tim O'Donnell

4:10 p.m.

What is ... about time?

LeVar Burton has finally been tapped to guest host Jeopardy!, the game show announced Wednesday. The Star Trek: The Next Generation actor and former host of the beloved PBS children's series Reading Rainbow will step behind the lectern for one week beginning on July 26.

Jeopardy! has been making use of a series of rotating guest hosts following Alex Trebek's death, and for months, fans have been calling for Burton to be brought in. In fact, one petition urging the show to make him the new host drew over 245,000 signatures. It certainly made sense given he's known in part for an educational show, and in recent weeks, Burton has been making clear he was interested — not just in guest hosting, but in taking on the gig permanently.

"This is something that I really think is a good idea," Burton recently told USA Today. "I think it's a good fit of what the show is, what the show requires and what I feel like I bring to the table."

Burton's name was announced Wednesday as part of what Jeopardy! said would be the final group of guest hosts to finish its current season, the others being Good Morning America anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, CNBC host David Faber, and sportscaster Joe Buck. This schedule takes the show up to August 13, around which point a permanent successor to Trebek could potentially be revealed.

So who might it be? Burton is a strong contender, though former champion Ken Jennings' guest hosting stint was also well received by fans, as was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers'. Like Burton, Rodgers has said he's interested in the permanent job. At the moment, CNN's Anderson Cooper is a few days into his two weeks as guest host, and emails leaked as part of the Sony hack suggested Cooper was interested in the job in 2014. We'll take "tough decisions" for $1,000. Brendan Morrow

3:53 p.m.

Brazil says it will cut back on deforestation — for a price.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sent a proposal to the Biden administration that involves reducing deforestation by 40 percent in exchange for $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. Bolsonaro is often criticized as a "negligent steward" of the vulnerable Amazon rainforest, the Journal notes, but he and others, including residents of the Amazon region, have argued the only way to save the rainforest is by funding "nascent bio-industries" like fish farming "that would provide alternatives to poor farmers who slash and burn to raise crops and cattle."

Ricardo Salles, Brazil's environment minister, said $1 billion is a "reasonable" amount, especially since President Biden mentioned during his campaign last year that he would work to gather $20 billion from around the world to help Brazil fight forest destruction. Salles told the Journal that one-third of the money would finance "specialized battalions" to enforce environmental laws, while the rest would go to the aforementioned sustainable economic activities.

Per the Journal, Brazil believes foreign aid would end deforestation by 2030, but not everyone is buying the talk. "The [Brazilian] government's credibility to collect funds from other governments is entirely damaged," Carlos Rittl, a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability in Germany, told the Journal. "This is a blackmail discourse."

Bolsonaro will be one of around 40 heads of state to participate in a virtual climate summit hosted by Biden on Thursday and Friday. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

3:16 p.m.

President Biden is urging all employers to give workers time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and his administration is rolling out a tax credit for small businesses that do so.

Biden on Wednesday again urged Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccine now that adults are eligible to receive one in every U.S. state. But he also addressed concerns from some Americans who say they can't afford to take time off from work to get vaccinated or recover from the vaccine's possible side effects.

"I'm calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need with pay to get vaccinated, and any time they need, with pay, to recover if they're feeling under the weather after the shot," Biden said. "No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated."

To ensure small and medium-sized businesses can do so, Biden said businesses with fewer than 500 employees will be able to get reimbursed for the cost of giving workers paid leave to get vaccinated. These businesses will be eligible for refundable tax credits under the American Rescue Plan, according to the IRS. This credit "ensures that no small businesses or non-profits will lose a single dollar by providing such paid leave to workers receiving a vaccination," the White House said.

Biden on Wednesday also celebrated the fact that the administration has met his goal of administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. He said during his remarks that the U.S. is still "on track" for looking "much closer" to normal by the Fourth of July, but that "we still have more to do in the months of May and June." Brendan Morrow

2:19 p.m.

Wait for it...

Hulu has ordered a How I Met Your Mother sequel series called How I Met Your Father, which is set to star Hilary Duff in the lead role, according to Variety. Similar to the premise of the original CBS sitcom, Duff will play Sophie, a woman who, in the future, tells her son the story of how she met his father beginning in the year 2021.

If the idea of a How I Met Your Mother spin-off sounds familiar, that's because CBS actually ordered a pilot for one all the way back in 2013. At that point, the spin-off was called How I Met Your Dad, and it was to star Greta Gerwig. This series never ended up happening, but now the idea is being brought back all these years later with a new star and streaming home.

For Duff, this also comes after a planned Disney+ revival of her hit show Lizzie McGuire didn't move forward, reportedly due to creative differences as Duff and creator Terri Minsky hoped to tackle more adult themes than Disney was looking for. This Is Us co-showrunners Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger will reportedly write and executive produce How I Met Your Father, and How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas will also return as executive producers. Duff will serve as a producer, as well.

Of course, the original How I Met Your Mother series famously concluded its run in 2014 with one of the most controversial TV endings in recent history, so it remains to be seen whether this one can ultimately wrap in a way that's legendary in a good way. Brendan Morrow

2:11 p.m.

Vanita Gupta was never really in danger of being blocked from serving as associate attorney general (the Justice Department's no. 3 position), so long as she had the backing of all 50 Senate Democrats. But the upper chamber's GOP still put up a fierce fight by trying to paint the Biden nominee as a "radical" who would weaken law enforcement, as Politico reported earlier this week.

In the end, though, Gupta's confirmation is set to move forward, and Vice President Kamala Harris won't be needed to cast a tie-breaking vote. Instead, Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) will cross the aisle. On Wednesday, Murkowski joined Democrats in voting to advance Gupta's confirmation, and she said she'll stay the course when the final vote comes around.

Murkowski explained that after looking at Gupta's record and sitting down with her, she was convinced by the "passion that she carries with the work she performs" as well as her determination to serve in the post despite the contentious nomination process. "I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has demonstrated through her professional career to be deeply, deeply committed to matters of justice," Murkowski said on the Senate floor. Tim O'Donnell

12:59 p.m.

When it comes to the Best Actor race at this year's Oscars, a posthumous win for Chadwick Boseman has seemed all but guaranteed for months. But could a massive upset actually be in the cards?

Boseman has long been considered the Best Actor frontrunner for his performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the final film he completed prior to his death, and the late actor has already won at the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

But also in the mix is Anthony Hopkins, whose performance in The Father was hailed as one of the best of his career, and Hopkins recently won over Boseman in an upset at the British Academy Film Awards. Pundits generally chalked that up to the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Oscars, simply favoring a celebrated British actor, and most experts are still predicting Boseman will win the Academy Award.

But days ahead of the big night, Variety reports that based on conversations with some Academy voters, the Best Actor race "may not be as clear as it once seemed." Indeed, the report quotes one voting member as saying that even though they believe Boseman will win, they personally voted for Hopkins. That's a sentiment that Variety's Clayton Davis writes has been expressed by "multiple voters over the past few days." Might voters perceive Boseman's win as such a slam dunk that they think backing Hopkins won't make a difference, only for this to tip the scales?

A Hopkins upset would call to mind Olivia Colman's shock Best Actress victory over frontrunner Glenn Close at the 2019 Oscars, though this situation is clearly much different given this will be the Academy's last chance to award Boseman an Oscar following his tragic death. Ultimately, Boseman's win is still quite likely, but for a race that has appeared all locked up, there might be a bit of unexpected suspense involved after all. Brendan Morrow

12:49 p.m.

In a memo obtained by Forbes on Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) laid out why he believes Washington. D.C., should not become a state.

One of the reasons he used to back his argument is the city's crime rate, including a rising number of annual murders and carjackings. The local government "has failed to provide for the safety and well-being of its citizens," Scalise wrote. "Why should the District of Columbia be granted statehood when it can't even perform basic government duties like protecting governments from criminals?"

Scalise's choice to focus on crime may not have registered quite how he hoped, instead prompting observers to point out that Louisiana, his home state, has long reported the nation's highest murder rate, while New Orleans, parts of which Scalise represents, has also seen an uptick in crime. Tim O'Donnell

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