Political News

The Latest: McConnell proposes shifting funds to COVID aid

Posted November 20, 2020 2:51 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2020 2:52 p.m. EST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives to talk to reporters after a Republican Conference luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

— The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing that Congress funnel $455 billion of unspent small business lending funds toward a new COVID-19 aid package.

The Republican leader’s offer Friday comes after a morning meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They are trying to kickstart stalled negotiations with Democrats on a year-end virus aid package in the lame-duck Congress.

“Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important, and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months,” McConnell said in a statement.

Congress has been at a standstill as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for $2 trillion in new coronavirus aid, but McConnell insists on a more narrow $500 billion package. The availability of new funds could raise the pricetag closer to a compromise.

On Thursday, Mnuchin announced he would not extend some of the Federal Reserve’s emergency loan programs that had been aimed at COVID relief. The Fed’s corporate credit, municipal lending and Main Street Lending programs will end as of Dec. 31.

Critics said the Treasury Department’s move was designed to hinder President-elect Joe Biden’s administration by halting needed lending. Mnuchin said Friday on CNBC that Congress could make better use of the money.

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HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:

President-elect Joe Biden is adding four Obama-Biden administration veterans to his top ranks as he continues to build out his White House team. He's also set to hold his first in-person meeting since winning the election with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Read more:

— Sanders, Warren under scrutiny as Biden weighs Cabinet picks

— Trump, allies make frantic steps to overturn Biden victory

— Trump’s election lawsuits plagued by elementary errors

— EXPLAINER: A look at Trump’s long-shot legal challenges

— Birthday time: Biden turns 78, will be oldest U.S. president

— AP FACT CHECK: Trump legal team’s batch of false vote claims

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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

1:05 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday disputed Joe Biden’s concerns about the government’s ability to distribute a coronavirus vaccine after one is approved, given that the Trump administration is refusing to share information with the president-elect’s team.

McEnany ticked through the administration’s timeline for getting an approved vaccine to the public, and held up a copy of the plan.

“This is publicly available, if the former vice president would like to read through it,” McEnany said at her first briefing since the election.

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1 p.m.

The head of the Internal Revenue Service won’t say whether he would provide President Donald Trump’s tax returns, long sought by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, under a request by President-elect Joe Biden.

Because of the legal fight over Trump’s returns, “I cannot answer the question,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said at a House oversight hearing.

Rettig, whose term ends in 2022, also said he doesn’t intend to give Biden his resignation. He acknowledged that, by law, he serves at the pleasure of the president.

Last year the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee formally asked the IRS, through Rettig, to provide six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, setting off an epic legal battle between the Democrats and the Trump administration.

“You have aided and abetted” Trump in his refusal to make the returns public, Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., told Rettig at the hearing. Rettig said he objected to that description.

Rettig, a former Beverly Hills tax lawyer, was appointed by Trump in 2018 and confirmed by the Senate over Democrats’ objections. During the 2016 campaign, in an opinion piece, he had defended Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.

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12:05 p.m.

A Republican Michigan congressman is calling any efforts to change the presidential election results in his state a “dead end.”

Rep. Fred Upton told reporters Friday on Capitol Hill he has “not seen any evidence of fraud that would overturn 150,000 and some votes.” His comments came ahead of a White House visit by at least four GOP lawmakers from Michigan.

Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election on Nov. 7, but President Donald Trump has refused to concede.

Upton was among the first Republicans in Congress to congratulate Biden on winning. Upton says he has not been in contact with the lawmakers from his state who are meeting later with Trump at the White House.

Even if Trump persuaded the state lawmakers to pass legislation to overturn the election results, Upton says they don’t have the numbers to override an expected veto of any such action by the state’s Democratic governor. He says, “That’s just a dead end.”

Upton says he also doesn’t “see judges overturning the results of the certified elections.” He calls that “pretty much a long shot.”

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This item has been corrected to show Upton was referring to any efforts to change the presidential election results, not to an attempt by state legislators to change the results.

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11:05 a.m.

The Republican Senate Health committee chairman says the Trump administration should provide President-elect Joe Biden access to transition materials -- particularly on coronavirus vaccine distribution --- “to ensure a smooth” transfer of power.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said in statement Friday that information should flow “if there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance.”

Biden was declared the winner of the election on Nov. 7, but President Donald Trump has refused to concede.

Alexander is retiring and is a close confidant of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As a former governor and Cabinet secretary he is often viewed as a leading voice among Senate Republicans, particularly on health and education issues.

Alexander says his hope is “that the loser of this presidential election will follow Al Gore’s example,” referring to the Democratic candidate’s concession after the disputed 2000 election against George W. Bush.

Alexander says, “Put the country first, congratulate the winner and help him to a good beginning of the new term.”

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