On Monday, congressional leaders finally unveiled the text of the coronavirus stimulus package.
The bill is 5,593 pages, meaning it is basically impossible for any member of Congress to read the legislation prior to voting on it this evening.
“Let’s say the vote is at 8 pm in the House, lawmakers could technically read the Covid relief/omnibus bill at a rough rate of about 4 seconds per page,” HuffPost correspondent Tara Golshan reported. “Basically read Infinite Jest five times over and then some in six hours.”
Here are seven shocking facts about the legislation that have been discovered so far.
Five pages on reincarnation
Beginning on page 5099 of the bill PDF file, the bill spends five pages laying out the process for determining who will be recognized as the next reincarnation of the Dalia Lama.
The language on reincarnation was spotted by Lisa Desjardins of PBS news.
Filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will be more difficult.
Unemployed workers seeking PUA will have to provide documentation within 21 days.
David Dayen, the executive editor of The Prospect, says the new rule is “an effective tax on people’s time.
This is what I was afraid of. Like much of the year, the relief comes with unnecessary administrative burdens, an effective tax on people's time. https://t.co/QImPv75NMD
— David Dayen (@ddayen) December 21, 2020
Owners of race horses got a tax break
While Americans will only get up-to $600 in direct financial aid in the bill, racehorse owners will receive a tax break.
The tax break was noticed by Lee Fang of The Intercept.
The so-called 'three martini lunch' tax deduction, used by business to deduct food and beverage expenses, is in there. pic.twitter.com/lOFLc6iYv8
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 21, 2020
If you own a multifamily rental property, ie an apartment building, the coronavirus stimulus legislation has a retroactive tax break for you pic.twitter.com/ATllvyM2cU
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 21, 2020
Two new museums will be established
One of the little-notices aspects of the bill is that it will authorize two new museums.
CNN reporter Lauren Fox noticed the bill will establish a new American Women’s History Museum and National Museum of the American Latino.
Fun fact: This omni-stimulus includes the creation of TWO new Smithsonian Museums. American Women's History Museum and National Museum of the American Latino.
— Lauren Fox (@FoxReports) December 21, 2020
The new eviction moratorium only lasts for five weeks
Despite the looming eviction crisis, the new bill only extends protections until the end of January.
The length of the eviction moratorium was noted by Elizabeth Landers of Vice News.
as expected, the federal eviction moratorium is extended in this latest relief bill – but only through Jan 31 pic.twitter.com/GZibP9oJ2E
— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) December 21, 2020
Stimulus bill decriminalizes unauthorized use of Smokey the Bear
Department of Agriculture propaganda icon Smokey the Bear was also included in the legislation addressing the coronavirus economic crisis.
The legislative language was reported by Erik Wasson of Bloomberg news.
Bill decriminalizes unauthorized use of the Swiss Coat of Arms or Smokey the Bear
— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) December 21, 2020
Stimulus includes “three martini” lunch deductions for corporations
While Americans wait in bread lines, big corporations got the “three martini” tax cut that was pushed by Donald Trump, as reported by Jeff Stein of The Washington Post.
And there it is — as we reported last night, the tax deduction business meals is in the covid relief package for both 2021 and 2022
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) December 21, 2020
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Trump Had to Be Blocked From Appointing Ivanka to Head Up the World Bank: Report
According to a report from the Intercept’s Ryan Grim and Max Ufberg, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was forced to intercede when Donald Trump proposed appointing his daughter Ivanka to head up the World Bank.
The report notes that when the opening came about in January of 2019, Trump saw it as an opportunity to promote his fashion designer daughter.
“As the White House moved to select its new leader, one name very dear to the Trump’s heart kept floating around: his daughter Ivanka Trump,” the reports states while noting that rumors of the appointment had floated about at the time, with Ivanka demurring and telling reporters she was “happy” advising her dad in the White House.
As the Intercept is now reporting, “…two sources, not authorized to speak publicly, tell The Intercept the talk of Ivanka at the helm went far beyond the realm of Beltway chatter: Trump very much wanted Ivanka as World Bank president, and it was Mnuchin who actually blocked her ascent to the leadership role.”
According to Grim and Ufberg, “Mnuchin often placed himself between the president and what the Treasury secretary saw as colossally counterproductive moves. His time as a Hollywood producer — making him a representative of the set whose approval Trump craved — gave him influence that others in the administration lacked.”
The report adds, noting that Ivanka did have a hand in selecting the man who did take the spot, former Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass.
You can read more here.
‘Very Credible’ Allegations Against Matt Gaetz Were Divulged to Dilbert Cartoonist Before Becoming Public: Report
Three days before news broke of a child sex-abuse investigation involving Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, Trump-loving Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and an employee of the Israeli consulate began a text-message exchange concerning the FBI probe.
In a bizarre, largely overlooked aspect of the ongoing Gaetz investigation and scandal, Adams and Jake Novak, broadcast media director of the Consulate General of Israel in New York, had apparently become friends on social media, Politico reported Thursday.
“Scoop I can’t report: Rep. Gaetz is the subject of a sex with minor…. I trust the source. Charges/accusations apparently ‘very credible’,” Novak wrote to Adams, adding “told ya” after news of the investigation broke, and decrying claims from Gaetz’s father alleging that he and his son had become victims of an “extortion” plot.
Adams responded by repeatedly casting doubt on the allegations against Gaetz and said “the extortion counterclaim sounds credible. Has witnesses apparently.”
Novak then suggested he was personally involved in an effort to get $25 million out of Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, to help free Bob Levinson, an American hostage in Iran whom most intelligence officials believe is dead.
“The backstory is this is screwing up my efforts to free Bob Levinson,” Novak wrote. “I’ve got a commando team leader friend of mine nervously waiting for wire transfers to clear.”
Novak later told Adams that “the real documents do not extort. And we only asked for $25 million as an estimate at first. We came way down.”
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Stephen Alford on charges that he tried to defraud Gaetz’s father. Alford, a Florida developer, allegedly told Don Gaetz that in return for financing the Levinson rescue effort, he would use his influence to ensure the congressman “receives a presidential pardon, thus alleviating all his legal issues.”
“The allegation that a foreign official may be involved in a shakedown scheme of a U.S. congressman — a highly unusual development in its own right — could help provide a fuller picture of a scandal that has captivated the nation’s capital but where many pieces are still unknown,” Politico reported, adding that while the Israeli official’s apparent involvement “doesn’t speak to Gaetz’ guilt or innocence,” it is “concerning.”
Ronald E. Neumann, a career former ambassador and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, told the site: “It’s certainly problematic, if it’s true. Anytime you have criminal or potential criminal behavior, and somebody who’s part of a foreign embassy or consulate, it’s a problem.”
McCarthy’s Threat Over Jan. 6 Records ‘Meets the Elements’ of Obstruction of Justice: Legal Expert
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy violated ethics rules — and may have broken the law by obstructing justice — on Tuesday when he threatened telecommunications companies that comply with a Select Committee’s request to preserve records relevant to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to CNN legal analyst Norman Eisen.
McCarthy warned the companies — including Apple, AT&T and Verizon — that if the GOP takes back the House in 2022, “a Republican majority will not forget.” He also claimed that complying with the Select Committee’s request would somehow violate federal law. But Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, said bluntly Wednesday that “there is no law.”
“This is the equivalent of the proverbial gangster, walking in to a business and saying, ‘Gee, nice telecomm company you have here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it,'” Eisen said of McCarthy’s threat. “It’s the exact opposite, it’s Orwellian. If these telecomm companies fail to comply with the requirement to preserve these records, if they did what Kevin McCarthy wants and refused to turn over the records, that would be a violation of law. So this is absolutely unjustified by law, and it raises serious questions under the House ethics rules and other laws for Kevin McCarthy himself.”
Asked whether McCarthy’s threat constitutes obstruction of justice, Eisen responded: “It meets the elements of obstruction. It’s a threat. It’s an attempt to stop them through that threat, from turning over documents. It’s self-motivated, it’s corrupt, and McCarthy is worried about what may be in those records on him, and on members of his caucus. It’s always a challenge when you have legislative activity — and note that he did this on his official Twitter account — you have protection under the Constitution for legislators, the speech and debate clause, there will be a debate about that.
“The House Ethics Rules .. prohibit any behavior that brings discredit on the House,” Eisen added. “What could be more discreditable than threatening companies that if they comply with the law, they’ll be punished, when McCarthy has the ability to do that? So I think there’s a serious ethics issue, and then legal issues potentially that need to be explored as well.”
Eisen added there is “no question” that McCarthy had a “personal motivation” in issuing the threat.
“We know that his behavior is going to be called into question, and the committee is going to probe his exchanges with the president,” Eisen said. “We know that members of his caucus, like Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Greene, are also in the crosshairs here, and possibly many others. And it’s not just Jan. 6. The committee correctly understands that President Trump’s pattern of incitement and that of his enablers went back for months in illegitimately attacking an unquestioned electoral result and whipping people into a frenzy. So there could be some very embarrassing revelations. Remember that many members of the Republican caucus, with no basis at all, voted against certifying the election results.”
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