On Politics: Rattling Money Out of Congress’s Piggy Bank

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  • States across the country are confronting enormous shortfalls as the coronavirus’s impact continues to deepen. The bipartisan National Governors Association has requested half a trillion dollars from the federal government to help states deal with lost tax revenue. But the latest coronavirus relief bill that President Trump signed on Friday didn’t include any money for state or local governments. Instead, Democrats have their sights set on passing major legislation soon that will help states shore up their finances. “We will have state and local, and we will have it in a very significant way,” Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “We are including not only the outlays that they have for the coronavirus, but also the loss of revenue that they have.”

  • But that will mean overcoming opposition from the Senate’s Republican leadership. Even before Trump had signed last week’s bill, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, suggested that governors should consider filing for bankruptcy — a move that could lead states to cancel public workers’ pensions and cut a range of social programs. That idea has been met with cries of indignation from governors across the country. In New York, Andrew Cuomo called it “really one of the dumb ideas of all time.” The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, also weighed in: “The last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis is to have states all filing bankruptcy all across America and not able to provide services to people who desperately need them.” And on Sunday, Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, concurred. “For Senator McConnell to suggest that is incredibly dangerous, and I don’t think that the vast majority of governors in this country, Republican and Democratic, would agree with him,” she said.

  • An exhaustive review by Times journalists of the president’s public statements since March 9 found that his most-used rhetorical device throughout the crisis has been that of self-congratulation. Analyzing more than 260,000 words spoken by Trump at White House briefings and in other remarks, our reporters found roughly 600 examples of self-praise, often built on exaggerations and untruths. That’s about 10 times as much as he has displayed empathy.

  • Trump took a break from the briefings over the weekend after receiving a tidal wave of blowback last week, when he suggested injections of chemical disinfectants and sunlight as potential virus treatments. That led senior health officials — and even the heads of some cleaning-product companies — to issue statements clarifying that, as always, it was not a good idea to ingest bleach, Lysol and other disinfectants. (Trump later said he had meant this sarcastically, although nothing in his original statement suggested this.) This only added to murmurs of concern from top Republicans, many of whom had already fretted that the president could be hurting his own cause with the news conferences. This was the first time since Easter weekend two weeks ago — when the inconsistency and combativeness of his statements drew a similar chorus of concern from allies as well as enemies — that Trump had skipped his daily briefings. He hasn’t indicated yet whether he will be back at the lectern this evening.

President Trump after signing the latest coronavirus relief package in the Oval Office on Friday.

Even as eateries across the country have closed or switched to takeout-only because of the pandemic, food banks have reported a huge surge in demand — causing many of them to experience hourslong lines and fears of potential shortages.

But that’s not because of a lack of food available. Tens of millions of pounds of produce are withering on the vine — quite literally — in American fields. In mid-April, Dairy Farmers of America estimated that farms were dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day.

But for weeks, as the public need escalated at the peak of produce season, the Department of Agriculture ignored calls to help connect farmers with federal food-distribution programs so that surplus fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat wouldn’t go to waste, according to a report published Sunday in Politico.

Almost a month ago, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and members of the state’s congressional delegation asked Sonny Perdue, the federal agriculture secretary, to take steps to prevent food from going to waste. It wasn’t until mid-April that his department put forward a $19 billion aid program, including $3 billion to buy excess food, and over the weekend Politico found that there was still no indication that the government had stepped up its food purchases.

“It’s not a lack of food, it’s that the food is in one place and the demand is somewhere else and they haven’t been able to connect the dots,” Tom Vilsack, the former secretary of agriculture in Barack Obama’s administration, told Politico.

As part of the recently announced aid program, the Department of Agriculture has committed to buying $100 million in produce, meat and dairy products each month through the end of the current fiscal year.

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