McConnell confirms more judges, refuses to act on COVID-19
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to focus on confirming conservative judges even as COVID-19 reaches new heights—nearly 12 million cases and a quarter-million deaths—and the expiration of previously enacted relief looms. Measures that expire at year’s end include the suspension of student loan payments, a nationwide moratorium on evictions, and enhanced benefits for more than 13 million unemployed million Americans—a number that is expected to increase in coming weeks due to the resurgence of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the need for coronavirus relief grows ever more urgent. The HEROES Act—first passed by the House in May and updated in October—fulfills key NEA goals: at least $175 billion to stabilize education funding and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students and educators and at least $12 billion in emergency funding to narrow the digital divide and close the homework gap. As many as 16 million students—1 in 3—are unable to do schoolwork at home due to lack of internet access and devices. A disproportionate share of those students are Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and live in rural areas or low-income households. Relief for student loan borrowers is also among NEA’s top priorities.
Promising news on the vaccine front will not lead to a quick fix. Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have announced highly encouraging results—as much as 95 percent efficacy—in vaccines created with cutting-edge technology and U.S. government support to speed development and distribution. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved either vaccine and even if it does so soon, the general public will not have access to them for months—spring, at the earliest. Both vaccines require two shots and must be stored at extremely low temperatures, which will complicate distribution and administration. TAKE ACTION
Top leadership to remain the same in 117th Congress
The leadership ranks of the 117th Congress that will be sworn in Jan. 3 will be filled with familiar faces. In the Senate, Republicans reelected Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as their leader and Democrats reelected Chuck Schumer of New York as their leader. Runoff elections for Georgia’s senators, to be held Jan. 5, will determine which of them is majority leader and which is minority leader.
In the House, the Democratic caucus reelected Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker, Steny Hoyer of Maryland as majority leader, and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina as majority whip, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as assistant speaker, and Hakeem Jeffries of New York as caucus chair. Republicans reelected Kevin McCarthy of California as minority leader, Steve Scalise of Louisiana as minority whip, and Liz Cheney of Wyoming as conference chair.
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 (H.R. 8294), which recognizes that programs offering on-the-job training and mentoring pave the way to successful careers, and helps bring these programs into the 21st century.
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2020 (S. 4865), legislation to help schools and districts expand services for students, families, and communities.