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Mnuchin Republicans

Mnuchin says Republicans and Democrats are ‘far apart’ on coronavirus relief bill as talks continue – CNBC

A man walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, June 25, 2020.

Al Drago | Reuters

Republicans and Democrats appeared far from striking a coronavirus relief deal Wednesday as millions of Americans wait to see whether Congress will renew financial lifelines during an ongoing economic and health crisis.

As negotiators cite little progress in talks and congressional leaders snipe at one another on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration again raised the prospect of a short-term plan to address only enhanced unemployment insurance and a federal eviction moratorium while the sides hash out a broader bill. Democrats have repeatedly rejected a temporary fix. 

“We’re nowhere close to a deal,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., according to reporters at the Capitol.

Earlier, Mnuchin said President Donald Trump would support approving short-term legislation to allow more time for talks if the parties fail to strike an agreement before Friday. The enhanced $600 per week federal unemployment benefit technically expires that day.

“We’re not accepting that,” Pelosi told reporters after the meeting, saying she wants a “comprehensive” bill.

Comments from congressional leaders and White House officials portrayed a messy, politically charged process that appears unlikely to lead to a quick breakthrough to combat an economic and health-care calamity. As roughly 30 million people still receive some form of unemployment insurance, states have stopped paying out the extra jobless benefit. A federal eviction moratorium also expired last week. 

As Covid-19 spreads throughout the country, the U.S. has now reported more than 4.3 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths related to the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Senate Republicans released a roughly $1 trillion pandemic aid bill this week, a counter to the $3 trillion package House Democrats passed in May. But the proposal has not earned the support of many GOP lawmakers, let alone Democrats. 

As his administration works with Pelosi and Schumer to craft a plan that could pass both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House, Trump downplayed the importance of resolving issues other than the jobless benefit and eviction moratorium. 

“We’re going to work on the evictions, so that people don’t get evicted. We’ll work on the payments for the people. And the rest of it, we’re so far apart, we don’t care. We really don’t care,” the president told reporters before he left for Texas on Wednesday. 

He claimed that “the Democrats aren’t taking care of the people. The payments aren’t enough.” 

Democrats have pushed to send significantly more money to Americans than Republicans have. They want to continue the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance boost into next year. The GOP has proposed to cut the benefit to $200 per week through September, then change it to 70% wage replacement. 

Democrats’ plan for another round of direct payments to Americans also differs from the Republican bill. It would send another check of up to $1,200 to most individuals, and $2,400 to couples. The plan would add another $1,200 per dependent for up to three children, a maximum of $6,000 per household. 

The Republican legislation would send checks of up to $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to couples, with $500 per dependent of any age. 

The GOP and Democrats are trying to resolve several other thorny issues in the legislation. Republicans did not put any new direct relief for state and local governments in their bill, while Democrats want nearly $1 trillion in aid. 

Republicans have also pushed for broad liability protections for companies, doctors and schools during the pandemic, a provision Democrats oppose. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told CNBC that “no bill will pass the Senate that doesn’t have the liability protection in it.”

After a meeting with Mnuchin and Meadows on Tuesday, Pelosi said the comments about legal immunity made McConnell sound “like a person who had no interest in having an agreement.” 

The shots continued Wednesday. Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell accused Democrats of posturing and threatening the extension of key aid measures. 

“Democrats would rather keep political issues alive than find bipartisan ways to resolve them,” he said. 

Schumer then criticized Republicans for putting together a plan that many members of the GOP do not support. He said it was “littered with corporate giveaways” and “presidential pet projects,” but did not include key aid such as rental, mortgage and food assistance. 

He also accused McConnell of operating in bad faith. 

“Time is short,” Schumer said. “Speaker Pelosi and I will be back at the negotiating table with the White House later today. It’s time for our Republican colleagues to roll up their sleeves and get serious as well.”

Correction: The U.S. has now reported more than 4.3 million cases and roughly 150,000 deaths related to Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. An earlier version misstated the figures.

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Republicans revolt

Republicans revolt against GOP’s initial stimulus plan – CNN

(CNN)Divisions within the Republican conference spilled out once again Tuesday as GOP senators dismissed key pieces of their own leadership’s stimulus proposal not even a day after its release.

The revolt, which spans the ideological spectrum from conservatives to moderates in the conference, represents the latest challenge for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he seeks to salvage the GOP’s opening bid and begin negotiations with Democrats to get a deal before the August recess.
“It’s a mistake,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said of the newest proposal. “I think we should be focused on reopening the economy not simply shoveling trillions of dollars out of Washington. I think this bill is the wrong approach.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, declared Tuesday “there are a hundred problems with the plan.”
In particular, senators blasted the administration for including $1.75 billion in the bill to build a new FBI building.
Republicans pushed administration officials Tuesday during their private lunch as to why the money was included in the bill, which members argued wasn’t even related to coronavirus.
“I just don’t understand it. How is it tied to coronavirus? I never understood why we were giving money to the Kennedy Center or National Endowment for the Arts. During a pandemic, let’s concentrate on solving the problem,” Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida said.
“I don’t know why it’s in there either,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said.
McConnell himself said he opposed the inclusion of the FBI funds in the proposal, which GOP leadership unveiled on Monday. McConnell responded to reporters Tuesday by saying that he’s against “non-germane” provisions in the next stimulus and hopes that anything not directly related to Covid will be stripped out.
“Let me speak for myself, I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it’s funding for the FBI building or for example whether in the House bill it’s a tax cut for high income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants,” he said.
Asked about pushback from Senate Republicans to the proposal, McConnell acknowledged divisions within his conference, telling reporters at a post-lunch presser Tuesday “look, I think it’s stating the obvious that I have members who are all over the line on this.”
The reaction has been building for months. In most of May and June, the discussions between Republicans over how to tackle another stimulus bill raged behind closed doors. Republicans senators debated among themselves whether to give states and localities more flexibility in how they used stimulus dollars and whether to scale down enhanced unemployment benefits that were included in the CARES Act in the spring. But now with a proposal on paper, members aren’t holding back.
“I don’t want to see any new authorization of money,” Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said.
GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana told reporters that he didn’t think he could support the bill in its current form.
“In my opinion, we need to get back to the Trump economy not the federal government trying to replace it,” Braun said.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he’s “studying” the proposal, but has problems with a “number” of provisions.
“I’ll wait and see what the final product looks like, but I’m pretty skeptical about the way it seems to be shaping up,” Toomey said.
And it is not just budget hawks voicing their frustrations. With half a dozen Republicans up for reelection in tough races from Maine to Iowa, Republicans on the ballot argue that changes needed to be made to the GOP’s opening bid if they are going to back it.
“We’ve got a lot of negotiating to do,” Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina up for reelection, told reporters. “There’s a number of things we’re negotiating.”
The disagreements complicate the negotiating position for Republican leaders and the White House as Democrats view the schism as an opportunity to extract more concessions from the GOP in upcoming negotiations.
“Not exactly our strongest hand,” one Republican senator put it.
The GOP plan, which was unveiled by a series of Republican chairmen and members of leadership on the Senate floor Monday night, includes new money for schools, liability protections for hospitals, restaurants and businesses and another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families. But disagreements over how to structure additional unemployment benefits and the inclusion of money for a new FBI building at the Trump administration’s behest has further eroded GOP support.
“It’s a starting point,” Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, said of the bill.
Several Republicans also expressed frustration that there was no new money for state and local governments included in the initial bill. That’s been a top priority for Democrats and GOP senators from states that have seen their budgets shrink as a result of shuttered businesses and declining sales tax revenues.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said he wished there was more money for state and local governments even as he recognized the GOP bill is the beginning of negotiations, not the end.
“Obviously, I’ve advocated for more state and local and I think at the end of the day we will,” Cassidy said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, questioned whether there was enough funding for education in the bill. The GOP proposal included $105 billion for schools with $70 billion appropriated to go directly to K-12 education.
“Is anything enough money at this point?” she asked.
For now, it’s not clear how McConnell will bridge the divide. In order to pass anything and get legislation signed into law, McConnell will need Democratic votes. To get them, he’ll have to make changes that will lose him conservatives who are already balking at the $1 trillion price tag.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have already began their preliminary conversations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Those talks comes as Republican senators are uneasy about how Meadows and Mnuchin have negotiated with Democrats in the past.
“I think it is a lot better if it is members dealing with members, but this seems to be the pattern we are in,” one Republican senator said on the condition of background in order to freely discuss the contours of the negotiations. “I would rather it was Republican senators dealing with Democrats.”

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Republicans Sidestep

Republicans Sidestep Census Bureau Request For More Time For Count – NPR

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced a coronavirus relief proposal on Monday that did not include any provisions to extend legal deadlines for the 2020 census as the Census Bureau has requested.

Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images


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Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced a coronavirus relief proposal on Monday that did not include any provisions to extend legal deadlines for the 2020 census as the Census Bureau has requested.

Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans in Congress are signaling that the Census Bureau cannot take the extra time it has said it needs to count every person living in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic — even if that risks leaving some residents out of the 2020 census.

Rushing to deliver new state-population counts to the president by Dec. 31, and more detailed data to the states by March 31, 2021, as required by current federal law, could risk severe inaccuracies in the once-a-decade count, especially among people of color, immigrants, rural residents and other historically undercounted groups.

With 95 days until the Census Bureau plans to stop tallying the country’s residents at the end of October, roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide have yet to be included in the constitutionally mandated count that is used to redistribute congressional seats, Electoral College votes and federal funding among the states.

Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced legislation, including the House Democrats’ latest coronavirus relief bill, that would grant four-month extensions to the legal deadlines in response to requests in April by the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau.

1src Census Facts That Bust Common Myths About The 2src2src U.S. Head Count

But in their latest proposal for coronavirus relief aid as released on Monday, congressional Republicans offer no extra time for the bureau, only $448 million more for field operations and data processing.

The White House press office did not respond to NPR’s question about whether the White House supports the Census Bureau’s request to extend the census deadlines by four months. The press office also did not respond to an inquiry about whether the White House had asked for additional funding for the bureau in the latest coronavirus relief package to conduct a “timely census,” as reported by The New York Times last week.

A Trump administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did tell NPR that a “timely census” simply means that it’s delivered within the statutory timeline.

Top Census Bureau officials, however, have already publicly declared that meeting current legal deadlines is no longer possible.

In response to a question by NPR at a news briefing on July 8, the bureau’s associate director for the 2020 census, Al Fontenot, confirmed: “We are past the window of being able to get those counts by those dates at this point.”

Fontenot’s comments echoed comments in May by Tim Olson, the associate director for field operations, who said that the bureau has “passed the point where we could even meet the current legislative requirement of Dec. 31.”

'We're Running Out Of Time': Census Turns To Congress To Push Deadlines

Many census advocates are alarmed that Republicans have not yet proposed census deadline extensions — a request that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was appointed by President Trump, first made to Congress in April during a phone call that included no Census Bureau officials.

The absence of a proposal in the Republican relief package suggests the Trump administration may have abandoned its own request for these extensions, says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House oversight subcommittee for the census who now consults on census issues.

“If that is the case, then the administration is throwing the Census Bureau under the bus by forcing the agency to rush remaining census operations,” Lowenthal says in an email. “Continued disruptions to the census plan will only diminish the likelihood of an accurate result.”

The Commerce Department and the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who announced the GOP’s relief package on the Senate floor Monday, did not immediately respond to NPR’s questions.

It is unclear whether the bureau has to cut short the extra three months it has been relying on to send out door-knockers to try to make sure historically undercounted groups are included in the census by Oct. 31 amid coronavirus outbreaks around the country.

Trump Sued Over Attempt To Omit Unauthorized Immigrants From A Key Census Count

In an updated statement posted on its website on Monday, the bureau said it’s still “working toward the plan to complete field data collection” by the end of October.

The bureau’s statement also noted that a new funding request made by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget would give it “schedule flexibility” for completing the count during the pandemic, including attempting to wrap up field data collection “as quickly, and safely as possible.”

The bureau’s chief spokesperson, Michael Cook, told NPR in April that it was the agency’s “assessment” that continuing to count through the end of October means the bureau cannot meet the current legal reporting deadlines for census results.

Without extra time to process and prepare the census results to make up for the pandemic-induced delays, the bureau has limited options to try to address undercounts and incomplete information gathered about certain communities. That is especially true for areas where a higher number of homes may be difficult for the Census Bureau to reach without sending door-knockers multiple times.

“If there is a large undercount of segments of our population,” explains Nancy Potok, a former deputy director at the Census Bureau who recently retired as the chief statistician of the U.S., “there is only so much that the Census Bureau can do to use accepted statistical methods to account for households that are clearly present and occupied but nothing is known directly about the occupants.”

Trump Appointees Join Census Bureau; Democrats Concerned Over Partisan 'Games'

“The Census Bureau has been clear that it needs the additional time to complete a high-quality census,” Potok adds. “There is no reason not to extend the deadline unless you are trying to embed an undercount of certain groups of people in the census counts.”

The continued lack of clarity in the census timeline will make it more difficult to try to ensure a complete census count, says Jeri Green, who advises the National Urban League on census issues and previously served at the bureau as a senior adviser for civic engagement.

“The uncertainty in deadlines demonstrates a lack of respect and appreciation for the hardworking rank-and-file Census employees who may have to tabulate the data in an unrealistic, compressed timeframe and for our outreach efforts as the National Urban League and other organizations implore communities of color to self-respond during an unknown time period,” Green says in a statement.

If Trump loses the presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden, sticking to the Dec. 31 deadline would ensure that the census apportionment count is delivered to Trump while he is still in office.

That is the same count that Trump is seeking, with little authority, to change by excluding unauthorized immigrants, a move that is facing multiple lawsuits from challengers who are asking federal courts to declare it unconstitutional.

Four States Are Sharing Driver's License Info To Help Find Out Who's A Citizen

Since an April announcement, the bureau has been operating under modified plans for the 2020 census that include continuing to count unresponsive households three months past the original end date of July 31.

The final months of counting are focused in large part on historically undercounted groups, whose members are less likely to participate on their own.

On Monday, the bureau announced it’s starting to send emails to try to boost census participation among more than 20 million households in areas with a self-response rate lower than 50%. Emails will be sent from 2020census@subscriptions.census.gov.

All of the uncertainty has forced many states to revisit state constitutions and seek court rulings to come up with alternative plans for redrawing voting districts after the 2020 census.

Lawmakers in New Jersey — one of two states, along with Virginia, that have state legislative elections set to take place next year — are mulling over a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that, if approved by voters, would delay the redrawing of voting maps, which would then not go into effect until 2023.

This month, the California Supreme Court released a ruling granting at least four-month extensions to deadlines for finalizing redistricting maps, with provisions in case there is any “additional federal delay” given the “dynamic nature of the global pandemic.”

NPR White House editor Roberta Rampton contributed to this report.

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Republicans Texas

Red vs. Red in Texas, With Republicans Battling One Another After Mask Order – The New York Times

The virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, with Gov. Greg Abbott under attack from within his own party.

Credit…Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

DALLAS — Texas Republicans have long sparred with one another, with feisty internal disputes in recent years over gun rights, bathroom bills and other culture-war issues. But since the spring, as the coronavirus began to take hold across the state, it has been an all-out battle of red versus red.

This month, Republican groups in eight counties censured the Republican governor after he issued a statewide mask order, saying that it infringed on their rights and followed the lead of Houston, San Antonio and other Democratic-led cities and counties that already required masks in businesses.

And on Monday, party activists ousted the chairman of the state party in favor of an outspoken firebrand conservative who called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment in 2014 and whose ascension to the top party post received a congratulatory tweet from President Trump.

In Texas, the virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, and for the first time Gov. Greg Abbott has come under serious attack from within his own party. The conflict in many ways is not unique to Texas. The rifts in the party run along some of the same establishment-versus-insurgent fault lines that years ago defined the rise of the Tea Party and of Mr. Trump.

“This has been building for a long, long time,” said State Senator Kel Seliger, a former mayor of Amarillo who is the second-most senior Republican in the Texas Senate and has served more than 16 years in office. “When a party dominates, it also becomes sort of arrogant and exclusive. It used to be back in the ’80s and ’90s, let’s all get together in this big Republican tent and be a majority. Increasingly, we’ve been ushering people out of the tent.”

Indeed, the clash is about more than conservative anger over the governor’s mask order, and has its roots in the ideological divide between the right and the far-right in Texas. Some of that same energy and tension in 2012 helped a lawyer named Ted Cruz who had never held elected office defeat a powerful Republican lieutenant governor to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

As Democrats continue to make gains statewide, archconservatives have tried pushing Texas further to the right, while more moderate Republicans try to steer it closer to the center.

Image

Credit…Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

More than 130 local Republican leaders in eight counties publicly rebelled against Mr. Abbott and voted to formally censure him, a stunning rebuke for a politician who easily won re-election in 2018 and who until now has been the most popular Republican in the state. The censure votes were symbolic expressions of disapproval, largely over his statewide mask order. An effort to stiffen the punishment for being censured and to pass a statewide Republican resolution condemning the governor remains in the works.

Mr. Abbott, who faces re-election in 2022, was the first Republican governor of Texas in modern time to be officially reprimanded by a group of Republican county leaders.

“We feel that Abbott is going overboard in shutting down the economy,” said Lee Lester, the chairman of the Harrison County Republican Party in East Texas, one of the eight counties that censured the governor.

Mr. Lester, a retired insurance salesman who lives near the Louisiana border in a county that has recorded more than 500 coronavirus cases and nearly 70 deaths, said Mr. Abbott needed to “start acting like we think he should act, and that is looking at the overall picture — following the facts, not fear tactics.”

The divide has been evident in and around Fort Worth, the largest conservative-led city in Texas. Republicans in urban, suburban and rural Texas disagree on how the government should respond to the virus, and on whether masks cross a line.

Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, which has seen an explosion of cases in recent days, expressed empathy rather than criticism for the governor and was as pro-mask as the Democratic mayors of Houston and other major cities. “Y’all wear a mask,” Ms. Price, a Republican, said in a recent public service announcement, through a white mask decorated with the silhouette of a Texas longhorn, the logo of a city whose nickname is Cowtown.

“It’s been a very measured approach in Fort Worth, not much knee-jerk reaction,” she said in an interview. “People are very much afraid, and when they’re afraid, they tend to be very critical of things.”

But nearby in the same county, in the affluent suburb of Colleyville, Mayor Richard Newton took a more aggressive approach. In April, he opened restaurants before state rules allowed it, and last month, he bucked a county mask order. “We just choose not to participate,” Mr. Newton told reporters at the time.

And in two counties, one to the northeast and one to the southwest of Fort Worth and Colleyville, the tenor is even more rebellious. Republican leaders in suburban Denton County and rural Hood County were among those who passed resolutions against the governor.

The disarray was on full display last weekend at the Republican state convention, typically a time of unity, networking and chest-thumping speeches for the dominant party in Texas. In a back-and-forth that lasted weeks, top Republican elected officials supported meeting virtually — as the Democrats did earlier this summer — while the party leadership voted to meet as planned in person in Houston, a Democrat-led city.

After losing a legal battle, the party gathered for a virtual convention that was delayed by technical problems. After it resumed, those who were fed up with the party’s chairman, James Dickey, helped push him out.

The party elected a new chairman, Allen B. West, a former Florida congressman who was chosen in part by appealing to the anti-Abbott sentiments over the statewide mask order. In a video message to delegates at the San Jacinto Monument outside Houston, a revered site commemorating the Texas battle for independence in 1836, he called the moment a “new battleground.”

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Credit…Jeff Newman/dpa, via Associated Press Images

“There’s a new battlefield,” he said in the video, “and it’s really not too much different from what they faced — the despotism, the tyranny, that we see in the great state of Texas, where we have executive orders and mandates, people telling us what we can and cannot do, who is essential and who is not essential. It is time for us to stand up, and it is time for us to fight.”

In his own video address to delegates, Mr. Abbott acknowledged the criticisms over his mask mandate, but defended his actions, his authority to issue executive orders in emergencies and his dedication to conservative principles.

“I know that many of you do not like the mask requirement,” Mr. Abbott said in his remarks. “I don’t either. It is the last thing I wanted to do. Actually, the next to last. The last thing that any of us want is to lock Texas back down again. We must do all that we can to prevent that.”

Mr. Abbott, who did not respond to a request for an interview, remains popular with a number of Republican lawmakers and business leaders, and his supporters say the criticisms are coming from a small but loud wing of the party and will not amount to a threat to his re-election.

Even so, a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday showed that his support among Republicans, while still strong, had slipped as the spread of the virus intensified: A quarter of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Abbott’s handling of the virus, up from about 10 percent in early June.

At the same time, the governor has faced pressure from many public health officials and Democratic leaders to do more to stop the rising tide of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the state.

“I told the governor’s people this: The virus will force you to take action, eventually,” said Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who is the top elected official in Dallas County and who has clashed with Mr. Abbott over the state response. “The challenge is when the doctors ask you to take action, go ahead and do it then.” He urged the closure of indoor dining and a delay in opening schools for in-person instruction.

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Credit…Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Texas has become one of the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country, and Mr. Abbott, who began opening the state for business on May 1, has struggled to find the best approach to control it. Some Republicans had urged him to go faster in reopening businesses, and have pushed him to keep them open despite the spread of the virus.

“There’s just a division between what politically your base is wanting you to do, and what is the right thing to do,” said Mari Woodlief, a Republican political consultant in Dallas who worked on the Fort Worth mayor’s first campaign. “He did the right thing, but it was not what his base wanted him to do.”

After cases related to bars began to spike, Mr. Abbott ordered them closed in late June. For weeks, he said the government should not mandate mask-wearing, and then he reversed course before the Fourth of July weekend and put in place an order for most Texans.

Among the 25 American counties with the most cases per capita over the past week, nine are in Texas. That includes not just the populous counties that include Houston and Dallas, but also smaller counties that include San Angelo and Corpus Christi. The average daily case total has exploded to more than 10,000 statewide. In early July, Texas was averaging about 6,500 new cases daily. At the start of June, the figure hovered around 1,400.

Leaders in major cities, mostly Democrats, have asked for the power to impose county or city-specific stay-at-home orders; Mr. Abbott has so far refused, arguing that such measures should be voluntary. That stance is common among conservatives in the state, wary of government intrusions on personal liberty.

Sam Bryant, an Army veteran and Republican from Waxahachie, a solidly conservative suburb 30 miles south of Dallas, accused Mr. Abbott of doing the very thing the governor built his political career fighting against — government overreach.

Mr. Bryant, 38, a member of the governing board of the Republican Party of Texas until he left in frustration a few days ago, said he had already decided not to run for another term because the board was full of “a lot of establishment do-nothings.”

“I just think what’s happened is the party has lost its ability to deliver its message,” said Mr. Bryant, who cheered Mr. West’s takeover as chairman. “Why don’t we just disband the whole thing and start from scratch?”

Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Chicago, and David Montgomery from Austin.

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Really Republicans

‘Republicans are really fed up’: GOP increasingly splits with Trump as his polls drag – USA TODAY

CLOSE

Donald Trump’s push to reopen schools comes amid a nationwide debate over whether it’s safe for children to return to the classroom amid coronavirus.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Weeks before President Donald Trump accepts his party’s nomination, cracks are deepening within the party as a host of GOP lawmakers distance themselves from the Republican standard bearer as they weigh their election chances in November.

Republicans have increasingly split with Trump on a host of issues shadowing his administration, from his tone on racism and the removal of Confederate statues, to wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic and questions over intelligence reports of a Russia-backed bounty program on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

It’s a rare moment in the president’s three-and-a-half-year tenure, during which Trump otherwise relished inparty unity on issues such as his impeachment and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. 

“There’s a real disagreement between the president and his party in this election,” said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist and former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “I think a lot of Republicans are really fed up with the president’s divisive strategy. People are just throwing up their hands with some of the rhetoric that’s coming out of the president. It’s really unhelpful not just to his own re-election, but also to keeping the Senate.” 

Earlier this week, several GOP lawmakers said they plan to skip the party’s national convention in Jacksonville, Florida, where coronavirus cases have surged, leaving supporters, politicians and officials who plan to attend with the hard choice of risking their personal health or facing potential retaliation from the president. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the oldest GOP senator at age 86, said Monday he would avoid the convention “because of the virus situation,” while Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Mitt Romney, R-Utah,  also cited coronavirus concerns as the reason they won’t attend. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the convention a “challenging situation” when asked whether he plans to attend. 

“We’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not we can safely convene with that many people,” he said Thursday.

The Trump campaign had hoped to test those waters this weekend with a campaign rally at a New Hampshire airport hangar, but the campaign announced it would postpone the rally over the approaching Tropical Storm Fay, according to White House officials. The campaign snag comes after turnout at a June rally held inside an Oklahoma arena fell short of expectations amid an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state. Tulsa health officials said Wednesday that the rally and surrounding protests likely contributed to the city’s recent surge in cases. 

New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is another GOP politician who has been willing to break with the president over his pandemic messaging when it collides with his state’s interests. Sununu has had to walk a careful line in defending the president’s rally while enforcing his own reopening guidelines. The Republican governor had planned to greet Trump in New Hampshire, but skip the rally over coronavirus fears.

‘Make-or-break moment’:Trump heads to New Hampshire for campaign rally amid sagging polls, coronavirus fears

‘Some of his tweets have not been helpful’: GOP senators criticize Trump’s Floyd protest rhetoric

Latest USA TODAY poll: Biden widens his lead, but Trump keeps the edge on enthusiasm

CLOSE

Some Senate Republicans are questioning the media reports that Russia offered bounties for killing American troops in Afghanistan. Some who have been briefed on the claims say they’ve concluded they aren’t corroborated. (June 30)

AP Domestic

The Republican party moved its convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, last month after state and local officials refused to commit to the president’s desire to hold a full convention, packed with thousands of supporters, over health concerns amid the ongoing pandemic.

But aside from coronavirus concerns, the Republican convention may have lost its luster for some lawmakers, according to GOP strategist Matt Gorman.

“For a lot of these elected officials, it’s a chance to go there for fundraising and press attention,” he said. “And if a lot of media folks are not planning to go and a lot of donors choose not to go because in-person fundraising is a bit less prevalent, then there’s not much incentive to show up.” 

Gorman said he doesn’t think the list of senators avoiding the convention will draw the president’s ire, noting that several lawmakers skipped the event in 2016 in protest – including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., now a key Trump ally.

The president has since softened his tone about holding a traditional convention, telling television host Greta Van Susteren this week that “it really depends on timing.” 

“We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible,” he said of convention plans. 

Jacksonville has emerged as one of the nation’s biggest hotspots for the coronavirus. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday Jacksonville would be one of three cities designated for a testing “surge” to make more tests available in the hardest hit areas. 

The administration’s mounting controversies have pushed even Republicans who previously refused to break ranks with Trump to begin speaking out – most notably as it relates to the dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases in the U.S.

They have been vocal in their opposition to his refusal to wear a mask, pressuring the administration for increased testing and, most recently, some have criticized Trump for pulling out of the World Health Organization as the pandemic continues to ravage the country. 

More: Some Republicans split with Trump, support removing Confederate statues and renaming military bases

More: The White House has sent conflicting messages on wearing masks and the new coronavirus cases

“I disagree with the president’s decision,” Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said after the president pulled the U.S. from WHO, noting that while mistakes of the WHO should be examined, “the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it. Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines.” 

Even some of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill in recent weeks have been critical as Trump’s poll numbers, already hit by the pandemic, continue to plummet amid a national reckoning over policing, race and America’s Confederate history. 

Aides and allies have urged the president to change his tone as the nation both grieves the death of George Floyd after he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, and protesters call for change to racially fraught policies. The president has instead stoked division, threatening to use the military against demonstrators and using Independence Day speeches to defend Confederate monuments and dismiss protesters as “Marxists.”  

CLOSE

The Republican National Committee announced it has picked Jacksonville, Florida, as the location for its convention.

Wochit

“The country is looking for healing and calm. And I think the president needs to project that in his tone,” said Sen. John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican. “He masters that sometimes, and that’s the tone he needs to strike right now.”

Trump’s handling of the protests even led to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, leaving the door open to voting against the president in November. “I am struggling with it,” she said when asked by reporters whether she would continue to support Trump. “I have struggled with it for a long time.” 

Trump has drawn the ire of even of his most ardent supporters with his some of his racially polarizing comments. 

Most recently, after Trump criticized NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag and called for Bubba Wallace, one of the sport’s only Black drivers, to apologize after the FBI said a noose found in his garage wasn’t targeting the driver, Graham, a fierce defender of the president, pushed back.

Trump losing swing states: Trump trails Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, poll finds

“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Graham told Fox News Radio. “I’ve lived in South Carolina all my life and if you’re in business, the Confederate flag is not a good way to grow your business.”

Senate Republicans have largely ignored the president’s threat to veto a defense spending bill over an amendment to rename Army bases named for Confederate figures. The proposal, sponsored by former 2020 Democratic contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has gained a groundswell of support from prominent Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who warned earlier this week that Congress would “probably override” Trump’s veto. 

While the president has drawn a line on removing memorials honoring Confederate leaders and controversial historical figures, Republican attitudes appeared to have shifted since protests over racial inequality first unfolded in May.

McConnell said last month he’d be “OK” with changing the names of military bases while Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican facing a tough re-election in November, supported the amendment in a U.S. Armed Services Committee vote last month.

“There shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to renaming bases,” Grassley said Monday. “And I imagine that in my lifetime, there’s been a lot of bases that have had their names changed. I’m not aware of it. But the extent to which it’s a thoughtful process and not a knee-jerk reaction, I wouldn’t have any objection to it.”

Trump has issued eight vetoes during his presidency, and none have been overridden by Congress.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., has made a habit of marking her differences with the president over his term, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and has continued to speak up throughout the latest controversies. After the president refused to wear a face mask in public, Cheney tweeted a photo of her father Dick Cheney in a mask with the hashtag #realmenwearmasks.

Opinion: Trump, Tulsa and the demise of Lincoln’s Republican Party

Republicans like Cheney know the risks of speaking out and the potential for a lashing from the president’s Twitter account. But history has shown the president is less likely to go after loyal lawmakers who disagree with him on occasion, as he typically targets those who attack him personally or could imperil his re-election chances, such as those who have voiced openness to voting against him or weren’t unilaterally behind him during his impeachment.

“My sense is that Trump is fine with Republicans criticizing his policy, even his tweets, but he’s not OK with them attacking him,” said Conant. 

Congressional Republicans say the critiques of the president aren’t part of a trend but more of a reaction to specific instances worthy of criticism, rejecting the notion that it’s a showing of division within the party but rather an attempt to get the president back on track and on message. Though privately, many wonder whether public criticisms will alter the president’s conduct. 

Opinion: Don’t gorge on polls that show Biden ahead. COVID and voter suppression boost Trump’s odds.

‘Grim resolve’: Biden is up big and the Senate is in sight, but Democrats still haunted by fear of letdown

Trump’s propensity for fiery Twitter missives has been notably absent amid the wave of GOP criticism. Part of that calculation may be focusing attacks on Democrats with just four months until Election Day, Gorman said. 

“I think not just him, but also his team, know that the people we need to be going after right now are Democrats and he has been pretty consistent with that,” he said. “So I think there is a calculation that Republicans doing well down ballot helps him and vice versa.”

Republicans keeping Trump at an arm’s distance must also reckon with his dwindling poll numbers as November approaches.

A recent USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll found that opposition to Trump is by far the biggest factor propelling Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to the White House. Biden leads Trump by 12 percentage points, 53%-41%, the nationwide survey shows. 

Polls have similarly not been good for Senate Republicans, who hold a three-seat majority and are fending off serious challenges in more than five states. A slew of recent polls show Democrats leading in Maine, Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and Montana, which has left incumbents in an uncomfortable position as they wrestle with the barrage of controversies surrounding the president. 

Incumbents have employed varying strategies, some tying their fate to Trump while others distance themselves from the president – a heavy feat as he sits atop the ticket.

Several have attempted to steer clear of weighing in on the president’s conduct while others, such as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have repeatedly criticized the president in recent weeks, including Trump’s clearing of protesters outside the White House in early June. 

Still, some Republicans acknowledge that Trump is a political unicorn and while his tactics are far from traditional and frequently attract fierce criticism, he has weathered many storms – a trend that could continue as November nears.

“Every time I think that he’s miscalculated, he comes out on the winning side of it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told the Wall Street Journal when asked about the president’s rhetoric on Confederate history. “The thing the president is credited with, appropriately, is really good instincts.” 

CLOSE

President Trump is getting a fresh push to don a face mask during the pandemic from some Republicans and members of Fox News.

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Republicans equate police lives with black lives after George Floyd’s brother’s testimony – Vox.com

Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing was Congress’s first big forum for discussing the killing of George Floyd, the nationwide protests it sparked, and the country’s problems with police brutality and racism. It was also apparently, in some Republicans’ view, a chance to try to redirect the conversation to some both sides-isms.

About midway through the question-and-answer period of the hearing — which was about a Democratic bill proposing several key policing reforms, including a ban on using chokeholds and creating a national database of officers who are fired for misconduct — Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asked George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd a question. She asked him to speak about the pain he’s felt over the past two weeks since his brother was killed after a Minneapolis, Minnesota, officer pinned him by the neck with his knee for several minutes, and what he hoped to see from Congress.

In his response, Floyd made a very simple, moving statement: that black lives matter because “all life is precious.” But some Republicans on the committee took that phrase as an opportunity to “both sides” the issue.

Immediately after Floyd’s heartfelt message, another committee member called on Republican witness Angela Underwood Jacobs, whose brother was a member of the Federal Protective Service and was killed while guarding a courthouse in Oakland, California, during recent unrest over Floyd’s death.

“The heartbreak and the grief is hard to articulate when your entire world has been turned upside down,” said Jacobs. “I do want to know, though, when I think about all of this is that, my brother wore a uniform and he wore that uniform proudly — I’m wondering where is the outrage for a fallen officer that also happens to be African American?”

The moment seemed designed to create a “both sides” situation, redirecting the conversation away from those harmed by police. Jacobs did go on to implore the Congress members there to find a solution to this issue, but the seeds were sown in that moment for some Republican lawmakers.

Some Republicans seemed more worried about protecting law enforcement than addressing police brutality

Amid discussion of specific policy proposals and their various merits and shortcomings, several Republican lawmakers instead took stands against concepts like “abolish the police” or “defund the police.” (The bill that prompted the hearing included neither.)

Other GOP members of the committee seemed committed to equating black lives and police lives.

Shortly after the moment with Floyd’s brother and Jacobs’s story, ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) seized on the “both sides” narrative in an exchange with Republican witness and Fox News contributor Dan Bongino during his round of questioning.

Asking Bongino if he felt he was protecting life when he put on his NYPD uniform or was protecting presidents in the Secret Service, Jordan deftly flipped the narrative. “When you protected that life, you actually risked your life, is that accurate?” Jordan asked; Bongino responded affirmatively. “And officers do that every day, don’t they?” replied Jordan.

From there, Jordan said that the idea of abolishing or defunding the police is inconsistent with the statement “all life is precious,” even though the bill in question wasn’t proposing either of those things.

Jordan continued his back-and-forth with Bongino, hitting on this theme more clearly. “I think in your testimony earlier, you said if police forces are abolished, if police forces are defunded … we’re talking about human beings, we’re talking about officers who put on their uniforms and protect our communities,” he said. “It will put their lives at risk, won’t it?”

The unsaid assumption underlying some Republicans’ arguments during the hearing was that police are the only thing standing up to a perceived menace — one presented by the black communities and other communities of color whose suffering at the hands of law enforcement other witnesses pointed out. Still, little moments seemed to expose this assumption. In his opening statement, Bongino had called on Congress to “commit to police accountability, without shredding the thin wall between civilization and chaos.”

Eventually, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) said that police violence isn’t an “us versus them” issue.

“This moment is about what’s right, and this moment is about what’s wrong,” she said referring to Floyd’s death. “This is not a black issue or a white issue. It’s not a Democratic issue, a Republican issue. This is an American issue that has turned into yet another American tragedy.”


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Trump and Republicans use calls to ‘defund the police’ to attack Democrats – The Guardian

Donald Trump is “appalled” by calls to “defund the police”. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called the suggestion “outlandish”. And the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, promised police officers: “Republicans will never turn our backs on you”, unveiling a new line of attack ahead of the November elections.

Calls to reform, defund and abolish the police have been embraced by protesters and activists amid a national upheaval in response to the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, both of whom were African American. But Trump, his re-election campaign and his Republican allies are seizing on the movement in an effort to weaponize the rallying cry against Democrats and the party’s nominee, Joe Biden.

“The president is appalled by the ‘defund the police’ movement,” the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said on Monday. She compared it to past calls to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) ahead of the 2018 congressional midterms, which resulted in Democrats regaining control of the House.

“It’s remarkable to hear this coming from today’s Democrat party,” she continued, declining to say whether the president supported any specific policing reforms. 

The effort to turn the national debate over racism and policing so that it works against Democrats comes as Trump continues to fall behind Biden in key battleground states, according to several recent polls, amid his incendiary response to the mass protests against police brutality and his widely criticized handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Though Democrats have vowed to curb the powers of the police, few support defunding police departments. On Monday, Biden distanced himself from the slogan while embracing the growing activism around reforms in policing and criminal justice. 

Biden “hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change” and “supports the urgent need for reform”, a campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates, said in a statement on Monday. But he stated bluntly that Biden “does not believe that police should be defunded”.

Bates said the former vice president, who on Monday met privately with the family of George Floyd in Houston, believes that coupling additional funding for “public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment” with support for police departments would lead to improved outcomes.

In stark contrast, Trump has implored law enforcement to “dominate” the streets where Americans were marching en masse against police brutality and racism. 

“We won’t be defunding our police,” Trump said at a roundtable with law enforcement officials at the White House on Monday. “There won’t be dismantling of our police. There’s not going to be any disbanding of our police.” 

He conceded that the nation had witnessed “some horrible things” at the hands of police officers but insisted that virtually all – “let’s go with 99%” – of them are “great, great people.”

Republicans sense an opportunity to portray Democrats as extremists eager to disband police departments, while driving a wedge between energized protesters and elected officials advocating for more incremental change.

Yet many supporters of the campaign to defund the police say it isn’t necessarily about dismantling police departments or stripping them entirely of funding. Rather they say it is an effort to address systemic problems in policing by radically re-prioritizing community budgets to divert funding from law enforcement to programs related to mental health, poverty and education. 

And as protests continue to swell in cities across the country, their political influence was apparent. On Sunday, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to dismantle the city’s police department, promising to replace it with a new community-based system of public safety. Meanwhile, several major cities, including Los Angeles and New York, are already considering changes to their policing budgets while others are considering policy changes. 

Democrats on Monday forged ahead with a far-reaching plan to overhaul policing in America, called the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The plan would make it easier to prosecute police misconduct when officers violate a citizen’s civil rights, limit the transfer of military weaponry to state and local departments and put pressure on the justice department to address racial profiling and systemic racial bias in policing.

Though the legislation has galvanized Democrats, it remains unclear if congressional Republicans will join the effort, particularly in the Senate. 

“We’re already seeing outlandish calls, defund the police. Abolish the police,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday that did not address the Democrats’ proposal. “I think you may want a police officer to arrest a criminal before you try to work through his feelings.”

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Republicans Use Potentially Lethal Drug Hydroxychloroquine as Trump Bait – The Daily Beast

President Donald Trump’s decision to tell the world he was taking hydroxychloroquine during the coronavirus pandemic sparked the kind of concern and backlash one would expect over a treatment that packs the chance of having deadly side effects.  

But those medical worries weren’t as troubling to some long-shot Republican congressional candidates, who are grabbing the opportunity to use Trump’s embrace of the drug for himself as a way to show off their allegiance to the president. 

“.@realDonaldTrump taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off coronavirus is a kick-ass move that proves why he is the bravest and strongest of all American presidents,” James P. Bradley, a Republican U.S. House candidate in California, tweeted. 

“You’d have to be extremely naïve to believe that none of these Democrats knocking @POTUS are also taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure,” Errol Webber, a GOP congressional candidate in California, tweeted after Trump touted taking the drug. 

In an interview, Lauren Boebert, a Republican congressional candidate in Colorado running to the right of GOP incumbent Scott Tipton, criticized those who were quick to go against the treatment. 

“With the way the media hates President Trump, if taking hydroxychloroquine was truly bad for him, they’d be encouraging it rather than having a meltdown,” Boebert tweeted on May 20. 

    Neither Bradley, Webber or Boebert are taking the drug, they told The Daily Beast. 

    “No I am not taking it,” Bradley said in an email. “However, if I were to contract the virus I would consult my physician first and have no fear if it was prescribed to me.”

    “I’m not at risk for coronavirus,” Boebert added, before saying she was standing with the president and his “medical freedom.”  

    But other Republicans have been happy to talk about their taking the drug during the pandemic. 

    In Congress, two sitting House members also promoted in media interviews their own experience with the drug, including Roger Marshall. The Kansas doctor is running in a crowded GOP U.S. Senate primary in the reliably red state and looking to win out over longtime Trump supporter Kris Kobach. 

    He told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that he and members of his family were taking the drug prophylactically.

    “I would encourage any person over the age of 65 or with an underlying medical condition to talk to their own physician about taking hydroxychloroquine and I’m relieved President Trump is taking it,” Marshall told the Journal

    Hydroxychloroquine was an early favorite of Trump’s during the March days of the pandemic, though as concerns about the drug grew Trump appeared to grow more muted. By late April, Trump’s own Food and Drug Administration warned that “hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.” 

      Research on the drug has continued to be troubling since. A new study published Friday by The Lancet also failed to show a “a benefit of hydroxychloroquine,” when it comes to COVID-19 and more alarmingly described “a greater hazard for in-hospital death with COVID-19.”   

      A conspiracy-filled approach to the issue came from Josh Barnett, an Arizona GOP challenger in the state’s deeply Democratic 7th District whose chances at making it to the House are slim. 

      He tweeted: “If hydroxychloroquine is soooooo dangerous then why are Democrats so against @realDonaldTrump taking it? Do they suddenly care about him and his health? LOL NO! Its because it works and they don’t want anything to fix Covid and rev this economy back up.” 

      Rarely one to shy away from such concern, Trump has also promoted ideas about other pandemic-era treatments that struck fear in the heart of medical professionals, including a much maligned April briefing where he pondered injecting disinfectants or blasting the body with ultraviolet light

      The statements from the GOP congressional candidates troubled Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, who said “maybe they see this as somehow boosting their election probabilities by supporting these preposterous statements and actions by the president.” 

      “If this is their campaign, then I feel sorry for their districts,” Redlener said. “These are people who should not hold public office. To help support the president making these horrible public decisions about taking non-indicated and potentially dangerous medications, if this is all they have to prove their loyalty to the president, or their connection to the president, then I’m sorry to hear that they’re running.” 

      The concerning medical move by the nation’s leader has also become part of some Democrats’ campaign rhetoric, but in a far different way. 

      “The president is claiming that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, a discredited drug he’s pitched as a miracle cure, for weeks,” tweeted John Lesinski, a Democratic congressional contender in Virginia. “Is he really? Who knows. Who cares. It’s yet another thing he’s wasting our time on while we have NO national plan to approach this pandemic.” 

      Medical experts have bemoaned the way politics has become intertwined with public health during the coronavirus pandemic. And the controversy over hydroxychloroquine has only made those feelings more tense at a time the country is reopening from the pandemic and the nation’s death toll continues to increase. 

      Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, said he’s not surprised that people are defending their party or their president but added that “people need to look at the science and the data.” 

      “There’s people’s lives at stake, so it is dangerous to support your team against the medical evidence,” Klausner said. 

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