51 Is Larger Than 1

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Over the spring and summer, Mitch McConnell stated repeatedly that he had a litmus test for any new coronavirus stimulus bill: he had to protect companies from lawsuits from workers or customers who contracted the virus.

“We have a red line in terms of liability,” he said at one point. “I will not put a bill on the floor that does not contain liability protection,” he said to another. “No bill will pass the Senate without liability cover for all those associated with the coronavirus,” he added.

But McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has since deleted that red line. The leaders of Congress and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are nearing an agreement on a $ 900 billion bill that does not include liability protection.

Why did McConnell, arguably the most accomplished politician in Washington, work out?

The answer provides an important reminder of how the Senate really works and how it could become less dysfunctional in the near future than it has been recently.

When people talk about the Senate, they often imagine that McConnell, as the majority leader, is all powerful and able to prevent a bill he doesn’t like from getting to the vote. That’s not the case. Any senator can propose that a bill be given one vote. If at least 50 other Senators want it to get one, it will.

Over the past few decades, however, senators have voluntarily left that power to the party leader and given him (and no, the Senate has never had a majority or minority female leader) a veto over what is said. Practice helps unify the parties.

But it has one major drawback. This makes it more difficult to reach a bipartisan compromise. Coalitions that could pass a bill – but not the majority leader – don’t have a chance to form. “By stopping the legislative process before it starts,” James Wallner, a former Republican Senate employee, told me, “it is making the compromise difficult.”

In the last economic round, a bipartisan group of senators changed the dynamic by making it clear that they were strongly in favor of additional aid. They didn’t publicly threaten to bypass McConnell, but they didn’t have to. He can count to 51, and he was also concerned that the two Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff next month would be “hammered” for the lack of a deal.

(McConnell won a major concession when he abandoned his red line: the proposed deal does not include aid to state and local governments, even though the non-partisan group included it in their earlier proposal and although many economists were in favor of that aid.)

It is possible that this bipartisan deal will be a one-off event. This need not be. The Senators have it in their power to find other areas of compromise during Joe Biden’s presidency next year – even if McConnell is not in favor of these deals.

“In politics, victory brings victory,” Rahm Emanuel, former Democratic MP and Mayor of Chicago, told me yesterday. “The center-out government coalition has won a victory.” It’s a “great opportunity for Biden,” said Emanuel.

Perhaps most fascinatingly, Senators have the power to compromise regardless of which party wins the Georgia runoff and controls the Senate.

  • The proposed economic agreement is expected to include higher unemployment benefits of around $ 300 per week, which is roughly half the increased benefits the federal government paid out in the spring.

  • The bill will most likely also include an additional round of direct payments to individuals; a new emergency rental utility program; and additional funding for food aid, small businesses, schools, broadband and vaccine distribution.

  • Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, stressed the need for further incentives. “The current fiscal policy is very, very strong,” he said.

  • President-elect Joe Biden has selected environmental advocate Brenda Mallory to lead the Environmental Quality Council, which coordinates environmental policy. Mallory is expected to keep the office focused on environmental justice issues.

Expensive fish: A tech reporter for the Times looks back on the 10 bitcoins she spent on a sushi dinner in 2013 – a sum that seven years later is worth about $ 200,000.

Surprise donations: MacKenzie Scott, the 18th richest person in the world, is giving away billions, including large donations to colleges and universities that serve often overlooked students. She donated nearly $ 4.2 billion to hundreds of organizations in the past four months.

From the opinion: The Times’s Elizabeth Bruenig witnessed the execution of Alfred Bourgeois, a cognitively impaired man convicted of the murder of his daughter.

Lived life: Jack Steinberger received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988 to expand our understanding of the ghostly neutrino, an omnipresent subatomic particle, and to open up “completely new possibilities for exploring the innermost structure and dynamics of matter,” according to the Nobel Committee. Steinberger died at the age of 99.

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Maybe it’s because of how bored people are: the pandemic did the gossip industry good. But it doesn’t look like it used to.

The gossip business that grew up with newspapers in the 20th century and then expanded to celebrity magazines and websites is expanding to Instagram. Accounts devoted to gossip (also known as “tea” accounts, as in “spilling the tea”) are flourishing.

A celebrity-focused account, Deuxmoi has grown from around 45,000 followers in March to 513,000 now. TikTok Room, which focuses on the lives of TikTok stars, rose from 300,000 followers to nearly two million in that period, reports Vox.

The gossip about many of these reports – ranging from scandalous to mundane (such as tipping habits and responses to selfie requests) – is rarely scrutinized. Instead, it relies on tips and often deals in blind objects. “I don’t consider myself a news source,” said the woman behind Deuxmoi to Vox. “I’m honest as the moderator of a live message board.”

Of course, the old-fashioned gossip wasn’t exactly authoritative either. It also dealt in blind objects, resentments, and buffers. Sometimes forms change more than content.

This tomato soup is simple yet satisfying. (Grilled cheese optional.)

A film adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” August Wilson’s 1982 play, hits Netflix tomorrow. It shows Chadwick Boseman in his final film role and Viola Davis.

Over the past few years, Oreo has released dozens of new and often fancy flavors, including Hot Chicken Wing Oreos and Wasabi Oreos. Why?

This American Life founder and presenter Ira Glass selected his favorite episodes of the award-winning public radio program for the 25th anniversary.

The nightly hosts joked about President Trump’s plan to live on his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. (His potential neighbors are trying to enforce a decade-long agreement that the private social club cannot be used as a full-time residence.)

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