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Tuesday Morning: What’s stopping the stimulus bill

Email sent: Aug 4, 2020 6:30am
And what else you need to know today.

August 4, 2020

Good morning. Five states are holding primary elections today. And President Trump said he would support Microsoft’s acquisition of TikTok. Let’s start with the reasons the stimulus bill has languished in Congress.

Miles apart

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill on Monday.Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

Democrats and Republicans in Congress started far apart on negotiations over the latest coronavirus stimulus bill last month. They haven’t closed the gap much since — even though extended unemployment benefits expired Friday.

What’s getting in the way of a deal?

The gulf between the two sides’ proposals is one reason for the impasse. “The policy differences are just that significant,” says Emily Cochrane, who covers Congress for The Times.

Democrats’ $3 trillion bill, which the House passed in May, was a nonstarter for Senate Republicans. Their $1 trillion counteroffer, unveiled last week, includes reduced funding for state and local aid and omits Democratic priorities like election security. Democrats want to revive the lapsed $600 weekly unemployment benefit through January; Republicans want to slash it to about $200.

A deal has also remained elusive because Republicans aren’t all in agreement.

President Trump has complicated his own negotiators’ jobs by insulting Democrats and floating proposals, like a payroll tax cut, that congressional Republicans have long since ruled out. “Republican lawmakers and aides acknowledge they lost a week of valuable negotiating time just trying to get on the same page as the administration,” Emily says.

Other Republicans — especially those not up for re-election in November, like Senator Ted Cruz — say they’re worried a large stimulus bill will increase the national debt, putting them at odds with members of their own caucus.

So what comes next? “Another flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill, with administration officials shuttling across the complex in an effort to hammer out differences,” says Emily.

In other stimulus news:


1. The virus is already hitting schools

Paul Adamus, 7, waiting for the bus in Dallas, Ga., on Monday.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

A small fraction of students in the South and Midwest have returned to classrooms, and the coronavirus is already disrupting plans. In one Indiana school district, the superintendent sent out a note Saturday thanking students and parents for “a great first two days of school!” He also said several staff members had tested positive — and the high school was swiftly closed.

“I’ve been in the business over 40 years — I have never experienced anything like this,” said Lee Childress, a superintendent in Mississippi whose district has seen three students test positive since last week. “It’s kind of like drinking out of a fire hose because it’s happening so fast.”

A cautionary tale from Israel: The government rushed students back into the classroom in May, confident that the country had moved past the pandemic. Outbreaks ultimately closed more than 240 schools and led to the quarantine of more than 22,520 teachers and students.

In other virus developments:

  • At least 13 St. Louis Cardinals players and staff members have now tested positive, forcing the team to postpone its next four games. It’s yet another blow to the floundering baseball season.
  • The Times’s Christine Hauser looked back to the influenza pandemic of 1918, when face-mask requirements became the subject of fierce cultural and political fights, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings.

2. Primaries to watch

Voters in five states will cast ballots in primary elections today. Here are a few races to watch:

Kansas: Kris Kobach, the polarizing former Kansas secretary of state and staunch Trump supporter, hopes to win his party’s nomination for the Senate. Republicans fear his candidacy would give Democrats a better chance to take the seat — and, potentially, a Senate majority.

Michigan: Representative Rashida Tlaib — a member of the “Squad” of progressive women of color in Congress — is facing a rematch with a primary challenger she narrowly beat in 2018.

Missouri: Cori Bush, an activist backed by the progressive group Justice Democrats, hopes to unseat the 10-term Democratic House incumbent William Lacy Clay.

Arizona: Joe Arpaio, the 88-year-old former sheriff of Maricopa County whose hard-line immigration stance earned him a criminal conviction, is running in a three-way Republican primary for a shot at reclaiming his old job.

3. Trump’s reversal on TikTok

Martin Bureau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After an initial threat to ban TikTok, Trump yesterday voiced his approval for Microsoft to pursue an acquisition of the popular Chinese-owned video app. He also argued that the U.S. government should get a “big percentage” of the sale for allowing it to happen, without explaining how such an arrangement would possibly work.

The events followed a pattern that Trump set early on in his presidency, Ana Swanson and Michael D. Shear write, “in which some of the world’s most powerful companies have found themselves at his whims.”

Bridging the gap: From the beginning, Zhang Yiming wanted to create a global tech company based in China. This is the story of how TikTok’s owner tried, and failed, to cross the U.S.-China divide.

Here’s what else is happening

  • Isaias made landfall in North Carolina last night after again strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane, threatening heavy rainfall and flash floods as it moves up the East Coast. See the storm’s latest position on our tracking map.
  • The Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested yesterday that it had been investigating Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud. Before this, the D.A.’s case had appeared largely focused on hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election.
  • Gymnasts around the world are speaking out against a culture in the sport that has tolerated coaches belittling, manipulating and in some cases physically abusing young athletes.
  • The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, announced he was abandoning his country amid investigations into possible money laundering and tax evasion.
  • Lives Lived: Lady Red Couture cut a radiant figure within the Los Angeles drag scene and found wider fame with “Hey Qween!,” the L.G.B.T.Q. talk show. “Honey, she was unique,” said the drag queen impresaria Lady Bunny. “She was 6-foot-7, wore size 16 Converse sneakers with an evening gown.” Lady Red died at 43.



Make the most of summer veggies

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Make this crowd-pleasing tray of vegetables on the grill or in the oven for an easy summer meal. Use any veggies you have on hand — peppers, eggplants, zucchini and red onions all work well. Drizzle a little (or a lot) of lemon-garlic tahini dressing on top to help the simple flavors sing.

Everything old is new again

Good news for nostalgic gamers everywhere: Video game developers, much like remake-loving Hollywood, are looking to their archives for fresh material. Popular ’90s and early-2000s franchises like Resident Evil and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater are being overhauled, often to critical and financial success. Lesser-known titles are banking on sentimentality, too: the 2003 game “SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom” released a “rehydrated” remake in June.

What makes them so popular? “Because you can actually revisit those virtual spaces, it’s a more powerful type of nostalgia,” said one expert. “It’s the same when you go back to it; it’s the same as it was when you were 7.”

A conversation with Padma Lakshmi

Mamadi Doumbouya for The New York Times

Padma Lakshmi wants the food world to be a little less white. The host of Bravo’s long-running cooking competition “Top Chef” makes that point with her latest show, “Taste the Nation,” where she spotlights different cultures’ cuisines across the U.S., from cracking crab shells with South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee community to comparing flour and corn tortillas along the border in Texas.

But the road wasn’t always easy. In an interview, she discusses the difficulties of getting the show greenlit and the need for more inclusive representation in food media. “There’s such a laziness — it’s not often malicious — about reaching for the thing that is most familiar,” she said.



Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: ___ oil (spicy condiment) (five letters).

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P.S. The word “coronagrifting” recently appeared for the first time in The Times — in an article about the objects the pandemic has made commonplace — as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

David Leonhardt, this newsletter’s usual writer, is on break until Monday, Aug. 24.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the lessons that state elections during the pandemic offer for the presidential vote in November.

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