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The great problem of legislation is, so to organize the civil government of a community . . . that in the operations of human institutions upon social action, self-love and social may be made the same.
— John Quincy Adams, Society and Civilization

Herewith the questions of the week for savvy readers to ponder and, perhaps, answer.

What is, as of this writing, one of the Trump-inspired provisions in the $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill that, to Mitch McConnell’s surprise, has been included? Here’s a hint: the location of a government building.

Here is the next question: which government building? Here is the answer: the FBI headquarters. They are now located catty corner across from Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. NW in D.C.

Here is the last question: what does the location of the FBI headquarters have to do with the $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The answer to that is not obvious so I will spare my readers’ puzzlement by telling them: everything and nothing.

The J. Edgar Hoover Building FBI headquarters is in a decrepit state. Long before Trump moved to Washington, it was accepted that a new headquarters was required, and considerable effort had gone into selecting possible new locations for the headquarters. By June 2017, federal officials had lit upon three “finalist” locations: one in Virginia and two in Maryland. Not only had the three finalists been selected, but Congress had appropriated $913 million for the project that, when completed, was expected to cost more than $3 billion.

The proposed new building was to accommodate the FBI personnel presently working in the capitol, would offer greatly increased security, and would get the agency out a building that was outdated and dilapidated. Enter Trump. He was reportedly “dead opposed” to moving the FBI headquarters out of downtown D.C. As a result, plans to relocate the FBI to the suburbs were abandoned. Trump decided the J. Edgar Hoover building should be torn down and a much smaller one erected in its place. The new building would be 2.6 million square feet, would cost $3.3 billion and would not be able to accommodate all the employees in the present structure. As a result, 2,300 employees would be given the opportunity to relocate to Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia if they wanted to continue working for the FBI. In addition, by keeping the headquarters in its present location, expenses would be double. The FBI would have to bear the expense of moving into a temporary location while the new building was being built, and when completed, bear the expense of moving back into the new quarters.

When the decision to keep the FBI in its present location was announced in mid-2017, many observers, including some members of Congress were puzzled. Upon sober analysis, however, the reasons became clear even though masked in the obfuscatory language favored by Trump.

In a press briefing on July 23, 2020, Trump was asked whether the issue of the FBI building was holding up the approval of the economic aid package that the senate Republicans appeared to be close to finalizing. In response he said there is not a better location for the FBI than its present site. He said it would be an incredible building with a running track on the roof because “FBI people like to work out a lot.” Others came up with another explanation for why Trump wants to keep the FBI in its present location.

The present location is one block away from Trump International Hotel, a continuing source of income for Trump. If an FBI building remains in that location, Trump is assured that no competing hotel will be built there. From the Trump point of view including a provision in the aid package to protect his income was as important as providing aid to the millions of people whose livelihoods have been demolished by the coronavirus.

When the proposed Republican coronavirus package was unveiled on July 27, 2020, it was observed by some that it included $1.75 billion for “the design and construction of a Washington, DC headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Since it was such a small sum it is no surprise that in response to a question, Mitch McConnell appeared to be unaware that funding for the FBI building was in the bill. When an aide assured him it was, Mr. McConnell responded to another questioner who asked why funding for the FBI building was part of the bill, saying the Trump administration would have to “answer the question of why they insisted on that provision” since he, as Majority Leader, is apparently not required to know why provisions in legislation being sponsored by his party are included. He has learned.

In an interview with Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour two days later, Mr. McConnell said that funding for the FBI headquarters of which he had been unaware two days earlier, was in fact one of three provisions he would like to see deleted from the final bill because, as he astutely observed, it has nothing to do with the purpose of the proposed relief package. Perhaps he’ll suggest to Trump that it be removed. Don’t count on it; and don’t expect its removal.

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Lack of optimism for new coronavirus relief bill as negotiations stall

There was hardly a soul at the US Capitol on Monday, reflecting the lack of optimism for a new coronavirus relief deal amid the mounting blame-game between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday dismissed President Trump’s sweeping executive orders on coronavirus pandemic relief as “all sizzle, no steak.”

The New York Democrat said Trump’s four pandemic relief orders — signed Saturday after Capitol Hill gridlock — are insufficient and hard to implement after a breakdown in talks on legislation.

“President Trump’s executive orders are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Executive orders in general aren’t going to get the job done, especially the incompetent ones issued over the weekend … Trump’s recent executive orders are so unserious in terms of meeting the large needs of America as to be pathetic.”

Trump on Saturday signed orders to revive a federal eviction moratorium, extend student loan deferment, create a $400 weekly unemployment supplement and suspend some taxes on income under $104,000.

Trump said he had to act after talks broke down. Democrats initially insisted the Republicans cave and pass a $3.4 trillion plan, including $1 trillion in bailouts for state and local governments, which Republicans oppose. On Friday, Democrats publicly offered to meet Republicans half-way around $2 trillion, but details remained vague.

The gridlock resulted in a prior evictions moratorium lapsing last month and the expiration of a $600 unemployment supplement.

Without federal protection, an estimated 23 million people could face eviction by October. More than 30 million people receive unemployment benefits from states and could benefit from a federal supplement.

Congressional leaders indicated Monday that talks on legislation are not progressing since Trump signed the orders. That means some broadly bipartisan ideas, such as another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and more than $100 billion in funds to help schools safely reopen in the fall, remain in flux.

Schumer did not criticize Trump’s deferment of student loans, but said the other three executive orders aren’t good enough.

Kevin C. Downs for New York Post

Schumer said the order to halt evictions “is the best example of all sizzle and no steak. It does not even guarantee a moratorium on evictions. It merely instructs federal agencies to ‘review and consider whether it’s appropriate to halt evictions.’ ”

“What that means in jargon around here is, ‘Let’s not do it,’ ” he claimed.

Trump’s payroll tax deferral “would do next to nothing to help our workers or the economy,” Schumer insisted. He argued the taxes would have to be paid in December when the suspension ends — though Trump is pressuring Congress to forgive the amounts.

The $400 unemployment supplement, meanwhile, “is so put together with spit and glue that in all likelihood, many states won’t implement it at all,” Schumer said.

Under the Trump order, $300 would come from federal funds and $100 from state funds, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday.

The Democratic-held House of Representatives doesn’t plan to have any votes until Sept. 14, though lawmakers will be given 24 hours notice if there’s a vote on coronavirus legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blamed Democrats for the impasse, noting that money for state and local governments was a major sticking point.

“Democrats think they smell an opening. They have wanted for years to make Uncle Sam bail out decades of mismanaged and broken policies in places like New York, New Jersey, and California,” McConnell said Monday afternoon.

“President Trump took steps to soften the blow of the Democrats’ hostage tactics on American families,” McConnell said.

Filed under chuck schumer ,  Coronavirus ,  donald trump ,  8/10/20

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