The Washington Post - USA (2020-09-16)

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A4 EZ SU THE WASHINGTON POST.WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020


BY SEAN SULLIVAN

Joe Biden visited Florida for
the first time as the Democratic
presidential nominee Tuesday,
seeking to bolster his candidacy
with Latinos and veterans follow-
ing complaints from party lead-
ers nervous about his standing in
the crucial battleground state.
In a speech aimed largely at
Puerto Rican voters, Biden took
sharp aim at Trump over his
panned responses to covid-
and Hurricane Maria, among
what Biden identified as presi-
dential blunders he said have
badly damaged Latino communi-
ties.
“Donald Trump has done noth-
ing but assault the dignity of
Hispanic families over and over
and over and over again,” Biden
said in comments marking the
start of National Hispanic Heri-
tage Month. “It’s wrong.”
He cast himself as an alterna-
tive who would stand up for
Latinos and help improve their
lives, and he nodded to their
crucial role in the upcoming
election. “More than any other
time, the Hispanic community
and the Latino community hold
in the palm of their hand the
destiny of this country,” Biden
said.
The remarks were part of an
urgent push to shore up his
support among Latino voters.
They came amid increasingly vo-
cal criticism from Latino leaders
that the Biden campaign’s out-
reach to their community has
been lackluster, which they say
could cost him badly on Election
Day.
In addition to visiting Kissim-
mee, a community to which
many residents of Puerto Rico
moved after Hurricane Maria
devastated the island in 2017,
Biden unveiled a plan to create a

federal working group for Puerto
Rico to help with recovery efforts
and economic advancement. The
plan calls for accelerating access
to reconstruction funding, for-
giving disaster relief loans to
municipalities and bolstering lo-
cal businesses.
He also sat down for an inter-
view with Jose Diaz-Balart of
Telemundo, his first one-on-one
session with a national Spanish-
language network since clinch-
ing the nomination.
Biden voiced support for Puer-
to Rican statehood, saying it
would be the most “effective
means of ensuring the residents
of Puerto Rico are treated equal-
ly.” But, he added, “the people of
Puerto Rico must decide.” Puerto
Rico will have statehood a refer-
endum on its ballot in November.
Earlier in the day, Biden met
with veterans, highlighting an
area where he has been able to
siphon support from Trump, in
part because many elderly voters
are unhappy with the president’s
handling of the novel coronavi-
rus pandemic. In addressing La-
tinos, in contrast, Biden was
trying to stem Trump’s gains
among a traditionally Democrat-
ic group.
“In my view, based on reports,
from interviews, President
Trump has proven he’s unfit to
hold the office of the presidency
time and again,” Biden said at a
roundtable with veterans and
military families in Tampa. “But
nowhere are his faults more glar-
ing and more offensive, to me at
least, than when it comes to his
denigration of our service mem-
bers.”
Biden was referring to a report
in the Atlantic magazine that
Trump has called fallen soldiers
“losers” and “suckers.” The com-
ments were later confirmed in
part by The Washington Post and

other news organizations. Trump
has denied them.
In criticizing Trump, Biden
referred to his late son Beau
Biden, who served in Iraq and
died of cancer in 2015.
“He’s gone now — but he was
no sucker,” Biden said.
Biden is favored to win the
Latino vote — in Florida and
nationally — but some recent
polls show his margins lagging
behind Hillary Clinton’s support
from Latinos in 2016, and speak-
ing to reporters Tuesday, he ac-
knowledged that he has work to
do.
“Look, what I have to do is
make the case why it will be so
much better for the Hispanic
community, the Latino commu-
nity, if in fact Trump is no longer
president,” Biden told reporters.
That case, he added, includes
“education, health care, immi-
gration, the whole notion of deal-
ing with covid in a way that
doesn’t so damage the Hispanic
community, which is hurt very
badly, much worse than the Cau-
casian community.”
He suggested that Trump is
doing little to help pass legisla-
tion that could benefit Latino
and other voters. “He should get
off the damn golf course and sit
down in the Oval Office and sit
with both Republicans and Dem-
ocrats and get something done,”
Biden said.
Trump and his supporters ar-
gue that his presidency has been
highly beneficial for Latinos, es-
pecially when in job creation, an
assertion that sidesteps the pan-
demic’s significant economic im-
pact on minority communities.
On Tuesday, Trump’s allies
sought to make the case that
Democrats pose as friends of
Latinos but do little to help then.
Former Puerto Rico attorney gen-
eral Jose Fuentes accused Biden

of viewing the Latino community
as a “political prop.”
Regarding polls suggesting
that Biden has ground to make
up in the Latino community,
activists and leaders cite several
reasons. They note a lingering
displeasure with Barack Obama’s
deportation policies, a lack of
detail in Biden’s own immigra-
tion plans, an inner circle that
lacks a large number of Latinos
and a perception that Biden’s
campaign has placed a priority
on attracting White suburbanites
and African Americans, rather
than courting Latinos.
Biden’s campaign has defend-
ed his efforts, saying the former
vice president is pursuing a di-
verse electoral coalition like the
one that rallied behind Obama in
2008 and 2012. Biden’s running
mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris
(D-Calif.), has spoken or met
several times with Latino groups.
On the bright side for Biden,
he appears to be eating into
Trump’s once-dominant advan-
tage among older voters, and on
Tuesday he slammed Trump over
his talk of a payroll tax cut,
framing such a move as a danger
to Social Security.
“It’s just absolutely foolish.
What we should be is increasing
Social Security for people,” Biden
said in an interview with WFLA
television in Tampa.
In a state with many retirees,
Biden’s strength with the group
has put him in a position to win,
and polls suggest Florida is now a
toss-up. With 29 electoral votes,
it is the largest true battleground,
and Trump’s path to victory nar-
rows considerably if Biden can
capture it. Trump narrowly won
the state in 2016.
sean.sullivan@washpost.com

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this
report.

Biden moves to shore up his standing in Florida


STEFANI REYNOLDS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), seen Tuesday in D.C., has
been adamant that any relief bill must include at least $2 trillion.


BY ERICA WERNER

Multiple House Democrats ex-
pressed anxiety and frustration
Tuesday about the prospect of ad-
journing for the election without a
new coronavirus relief bill, with
one vulnerable House Democrat
saying on a private call with lead-
ership that she wanted to do her
“goddamn job” and deliver a deal
for her constituents.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) announced on a confer-
ence call with House Democrats
on Tuesday morning that the
House would remain in session
until a new agreement is struck,
saying, “We have to stay here until
we have a bill,” according to Demo-
cratic aides.
But within hours, Majority
Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.)
clarified that lawmakers would
not actually remain in Washing-
ton beyond their scheduled recess
date of Oct. 2, and instead would
be required to be on call in case
they must return. This is the same
arrangement lawmakers have
worked under for more than a
month without any progress.
White House officials have re-
mained open to a deal but have not
expressed an urgency to make
concessions.
Pelosi has been unwilling to
budge from the position she’s held
for months — that Democrats
should hold out for a wide-ranging
bill with a price tag of at least
$2 trillion, covering a multitude of
issues from unemployment insur-
ance to testing to the post office.
Increasing numbers of rank-and-
file Democrats are beginning to
question that approach.
Frustration boiled over on a call
the centrist New Democrat Coali-
tion held with Pelosi and Hoyer on
Tuesday. The coalition includes a
number of freshman lawmakers
who beat Republicans in 2018 and
are now facing tough reelection
races in GOP-leaning districts.
At one point, pressed by Rep.
Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) about why
members shouldn’t physically
stay in town to wait for a deal,
Pelosi suggested Rice should poll
fellow lawmakers on the issue.
After Pelosi got off the call, Hoy-
er faced more pushback over the
situation, and expressed sympa-
thy but said repeatedly that he did
not want to undermine Pelosi.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger
(D-Va.), responded to a comment
from a fellow lawmaker who said
members should be following
their convictions by saying: “My
conviction is to actually do my
goddamn job and come up with a
solution for the American people.
We have to bring something to the
floor.”
Details of the call were first
reported by Politico and con-
firmed by several Democratic
aides familiar with them, who
spoke on the condition of anonym-
ity to discuss them.
The developments occurred on
the first full day the House was
back in session from its August
recess, with lawmakers eyeing a
three-week sprint that must also
include passing a stopgap spend-
ing bill to fund the government by
Sept. 30.
Pelosi has not moved from the
position she has held ever since
the House passed the $3.4 trillion
Heroes Act in May, legislation Re-
publicans and the Trump admin-
istration dismissed as they waited
months to start talks that ulti-
mately went nowhere.
On the morning conference call
with the House Democratic cau-
cus Pelosi rejected the notion of a
slimmed-down bill, such as the
$300 billion measure Democrats
blocked last week in the Senate.
“A skinny bill is not a deal. It’s a
Republican bill,” Pelosi said on the
conference call.


With Republicans unwilling to
agree to legislation anywhere near
the scope Pelosi wants, some Dem-
ocrats have begun to discuss other
options. There are roughly 29 mil-
lion Americans receiving some
form of jobless aid, and many
households are struggling to pay
their rent and other bills. State
and cities a re also under severe
budgetary strain, and many have
cut large parts of their workforce
as they wait for Congress to decide
whether to approve more assis-
tance.
The stock market has mostly
recovered its losses from March,
however, and President Trump
has suggested he thinks a robust
recovery is underway. But Demo-
crats around the country, includ-
ing many freshmen who flipped
GOP seats in 2018 and helped the
party retake the House majority,
represent districts where individ-
uals, small businesses, local gov-
ernments and schools remain in
dire need of help.
Some House Democrats in
tough reelection races are under
growing pressure to take action to
help their constituents. In one
race in Virginia, where Democrat-
ic Rep. Elaine Luria is defending
her seat against the Republican
she beat in 2018, an outside group
has run ads attacking her for inac-
tion on coronavirus relief.
Luria said in an interview Tues-
day that she was pleased to hear
Pelosi pledge action.
“The truth is that the bottom-
line number isn’t as important as
the fact that we need to as a coun-
try respond to people who are in
need during an unprecedented
public health crisis,” Luria said.
Another Democrat in a contest-
ed race, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.),
told reporters Tuesday that action
on coronavirus relief was crucial
for him and his colleagues — even
if it’s just to demonstrate to voters
that Republicans are the ones who
are unwilling to compromise.
“I think that if people are able to
see us stay here and offer a propos-
al that is easy to understand, sim-
ple and tailored to the pandemic,
regardless of what size it is, and it’s
rejected by them, then we will
have done an important thing,
which is show people that we’re
reasonable,” Lamb said.
Pelosi and her top lieutenants
have shown scant interest in con-
sidering a bill with a price tag
under $2 trillion, however.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers
Caucus in the House released its
own attempted compromise Tues-
day morning, a $1.5 trillion pro-
posal that could grow larger or
smaller depending on infection
rates and vaccine progress. Trump
administration officials have en-
couraged the group’s efforts, but
top Democrats rejected it out of
hand, with eight House commit-
tee chairs issuing a joint state-
ment saying it “falls short of what
is needed to save lives and boost
the economy.”
Congress passed four bills total-
ing about $3 trillion in aid in
March and April, but has not acted
since. Many of the programs
agreed to in the initial round of
spending have expired, including
a $600 weekly enhanced unem-
ployment benefit that ran out
July 31. Trump stepped in last
month with some limited execu-
tive actions, including replacing
the $600 benefit with one half that
size, but the money for that is now
running dry.
White House adviser Jared
Kushner suggested in an inter-
view Tuesday on CNBC that a deal
might have to wait.
“The hope is that we’ll still get
to a deal. It may have to be after the
election,” Kushner said.
At the same time, if it becomes
clear in coming days that no com-
prehensive deal is in reach, Pelosi
may start holding votes on indi-
vidual issues such as funding for
coronavirus testing, to show that
House Democrats are trying to
address the problem.
erica.werner@washpost.com

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Democrats push for new


virus relief legislation


Speaker Pelosi expresses
frustration at prospect of
adjourning without bill

election 2020


PATRICK SEMANSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden dons a mask to participate in a roundtable discussion with veterans in Tampa on Tuesday.

BY DAVID WEIGEL

wilmington, del. — D elaware
Sen. Christopher A. Coons fended
off a left-wing challenge Tuesday,
defeating activist Jessica Scarane
to win the Democratic nomina-
tion for a second full term.
Coons, elected in 2010 to the
seat once held by former vice
president Joe Biden, has cut a
moderate profile in Washington
— one that Scarane, a digital
strategist and member of Demo-
cratic Socialists of America, ran
hard against. She endorsed Medi-
care-for-all and a Green New
Deal, suggesting that a suburb-
heavy state that has trended
toward Democrats could have
more liberal representation in
Washington.
That message hit a wall with
Delaware’s Democrats, and
Coons outspent Scarane while se-
curing the endorsement of the
elected members of his party as
well as a strong endorsement
from Biden. Coons also said he
wouldn’t side with Republicans
who would block a potential
Biden agenda if Democrats won

control of the Senate in Novem-
ber. He secured 74 percent of vote
to S carane’s 26 percent, with 83
percent of precincts reporting.
“If Minority Leader [Mitch]
McConnell — doesn’t that sound
good? — uses the filibuster to
block progress... then I’m not
going to stand by and watch,”
Coons said in an interview this
past weekend.
Republicans chose a challeng-
er to Coons, with voters backing
Trump campaign activist Lauren
Witzke, who has tweeted about
her belief in the QAnon conspira-
cy theory, over Jim DeMartino, an
attorney endorsed by the state
party. Entering the day, Witzke
had raised nearly $170,000 to
DeMartino’s nearly $47,000.
The Delaware contest marked
the end of six months of partisan
primaries.
Coons, who has derided Presi-
dent Trump and also challenged
the Democratic Party’s far left,
aired TV spots and distributed
mail that emphasized his support
from Biden.
It was Coons, who received a
master’s degree in ethics from
Yale Divinity School, who spoke
of Biden’s faith at the Democratic
convention nominating the par-
ty’s presidential standard-bearer
last month, saying, “I’ve known
Joe about 30 years, and I’ve seen
his faith in action.”
Scarane did not attract the

endorsements
or fundraising
numbers of the
year’s major
left-wing cam-
paigns, such as
New York con-
gressional can-
didate Jamaal
Bowman, who
won his Demo-
cratic primary race. But her cam-
paign said Monday that it had
made more than 900,000 voter
contact attempts, reaching most
of Delaware’s Democratic voters.
It returned to in-person canvass-
ing last month, while Coons’s
campaign did not.
The senator outspent Scarane
on ads.
“I have an election, and I’m
delivering the resources needed
to win the election,” said Coons. “I
don’t think that says I’m on the
run. It says that I’m standing for
reelection.”
The senator did not debate
Scarane, but the race finished the
story of the left’s primary cam-
paigning this year, which unseat-
ed three House Democrats and
won a string of victories down the
ballot. Delaware Democrats con-
trol every statewide office and a
majority in the legislature, and
Gov. John Carney easily beat only
a nominal primary challenge.
Republicans, who have not
won a statewide race in Delaware

since 2014, faced serious disad-
vantages this year. Their best-
known candidate for governor,
state Sen. Colin Bonini, ran and
lost to Carney by 19 points four
years ago; Carney, whose re-
sponse to the coronavirus pan-
demic has been popular, was in a
stronger position this time. Boni-
ni had five primary opponents,
including lawyer Julianne Mur-
ray, who was endorsed by the
state Republican Party.
Coons was first elected when
conservative activist Christine
O’Donnell unexpectedly won the
party’s primary but then flamed
out in the general election after
having to insist to voters that she
didn’t practice witchcraft. In the
Republican race, Witzke, who has
tweeted the slogan
(“WWG1WGA”) of the QAnon
conspiracy movement, outpaced
DeMartino 57 to 43 percent, with
100 percent of precincts report-
ing.
QAnon conspiracy theorists
believe that Trump is battling a
cabal of “deep state” saboteurs
who worship Satan and traffic
children for sex. The FBI has
identified the movement as a po-
tential domestic terrorist threat.
L ee Murphy, an actor and per-
ennial candidate, won the GOP
nomination for the House pri-
mary race and will face Demo-
cratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.
david.weigel@washpost.com

Coons beats left-wing a ctivist in Del.


Republicans pick QAnon
proponent over lawyer
endorsed by state party

Sen. Coons
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