Trump concedes virus ‘flare-up’ as Congress tries for aid package
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump acknowledged Monday a “big flare-up” of COVID-19 cases, but divisions between the White House and Senate Republicans and differences with Democrats posed fresh challenges for a new federal aid package with the U.S. crisis worsening and emergency relief about to expire.
Trump convened GOP leaders at the White House as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prepared to roll out his $1 trillion package in a matter of days. But the administration criticized the legislation’s money for more virus testing and insisted on a payroll tax cut that could complicate quick passage. The timeline appeared to quickly shift.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said as the meeting got underway.
But the president added, “Unfortunately, this is something that’s very tough.”
Back at the Capitol, McConnell downplayed his proposal as simply a “starting point.” That package is expected to include $75 billion to help schools reopen. It will likely replace an expiring $600 weekly unemployment benefits boost with a smaller amount and send a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans below a certain income level.
Easing the payroll tax is dividing Trump’s party because that tax is used to finance Social Security and Medicare. Cutting it adds to the nation’s rising debt load.
In Chicago, 10 people were killed and 60 others, including 10 minors, were wounded in shootings over the weekend — and it was, shockingly, business as usual.
Chicago has now rung up double-digit gun killings in seven of the last nine weekends after going more than two years without one weekend in double digits, according to SunTimes reporting.
We’ve sounded the alarm about this historic — and tragic — surge in recent weeks: A police slowdown seems to be enabling violent criminals to roam the streets more freely, and, as police Supt. David
Brown said Monday, civic unrest in parts of the city is forcing his department to divert resources from the South and West sides, where gun violence is most rampant.
The city’s homicide count has surpassed 400. If things continue at the rate we’ve seen in recent weeks, Chicago will easily surpass the nearly 800 killings we saw in 2016 — the city’s deadliest year in more than two decades.
Sadly, Chicago is not alone. Shootings are up 95% in Milwaukee, 57% in Philadelphia and 44% in New York.
Enter President Rambo
President Donald Trump’s administration and Congress could do a lot to curb gun violence in Chicago and other big cities. Rather than help, though, the president has decided to get in the way.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is planning to send dozens of federal agents to Chicago this week, and the agency’s boss won’t say exactly what they’ll be up to. “I don’t need invitations by state mayors or state governors to do our job,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf said on Monday. “We’re going to do that whether they like us there or not.”
On Monday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was aiming to prevent things from going off the tracks, asking the president to work with the city to deploy any additional law enforcement resources that might arrive. “What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret federal agents deployed to Chicago,” she wrote.
Earlier attacks this month on peaceful protesters in Portland, Oregon, by armed and uninvited federal agents without insignia and in unmarked vehicles have resulted in lawsuits filed by Oregon’s attorney general and the ACLU. It’s just another reminder the entire blustering Trump administration has no idea what it’s doing.
Rambo isn’t going to help us. Instead, the federal government should be pursuing sensible short-term and long-term strategies to quell violence at the same time the Chicago Police Department should be aiming to rebuild morale within its ranks and build bridges back to residents who simply don’t trust the cops, as Brown has advocated.
Target the guns used in crimes
The short-term federal strategy should be to target crime guns, as Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab told us on Monday.
Virtually all guns used in crimes on Chicago streets come from the suburbs or other states, mostly states with looser gun laws. That’s an immediate cause of Chicago’s gun violence. Yet, for political reasons, the federal government has handcuffed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ ability to monitor gun dealers to make sure they are not shoveling guns out the back door to criminals.
Which they are.
A number of potentially effective measures to address gun violence are pending in the U.S. House of Representatives or already have been sent to the Senate, where they sit and rot.
Among those measures promoted by Lightfoot on Monday, are beefing up the ATF and reordering its priorities to go harder after illegal guns; assigning more federal prosecutors to pursue charges against those who sell and possess illegal guns; closing gun law loopholes so that background checks are truly universal, and passing the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act — to further take guns out of the most irresponsible hands.
If Trump really wants to help, this is his to-do list.
But virtually no gun-related legislation will make it out of committee in the Republicancontrolled Senate. The sole measure that stands a chance would beef up funding for research into the causes of gun violence.
This is where we should note that Senate President Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has taken more than $1 million from the National Rifle Association.
Over the longer term, the solution to gun violence in Chicago and every big city is rooted in greater economic justice.
Instead of creating a police state of the kind Trump so seems to admire, with armed federal agents on every corner, the federal government could do so much more to improve schools, drug rehab and mental health programs, job training and other basic social programs.
This year’s Pentagon budget is $721.5 billion. Just four percent of that would be $28.8 billion. Imagine how many more teachers, mental health counselors, after-school youth programs, police community outreach workers and summer jobs programs our nation could hire and create with that kind of money.
But we suppose Trump would accuse us of trying to “defund” the Pentagon.
Background checks bill
In Illinois, the state Legislature should enact the Block Illegal Gun Ownership bill, which would expand background checks to include all gun sales, helping to keep guns out of the wrong hands. The legislation might come up in the six-day November veto session, but it could be crowded out by emergency COVID-19 measures, said state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, who is sponsoring it in the Senate.
As for Chicago, the city should continue to work to improve the fractured relations between police and communities. It didn’t help that on Sunday FOP President John Catanzara outrageously asked Trump to help control the “chaos.”
Good police work — not a police state — is essential to bringing down crime rates. But we also have the means as a city and a nation to do so much more.
When John Lewis left us, editorials and columns paid tribute to his leadership, his courage, his moral example. The praise was well deserved. A broader context helps understand his true contribution.
John Lewis was born one of 10 children of a sharecropper in Troy, Alabama. He should be remembered now as one of the founding fathers of American democracy. When he led that famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, America was not yet a full democracy.
Yes, a brutal civil war had been fought to end the scourge of slavery. Nearly a century later, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board that segregation — legal apartheid — was a violation of the Constitution. Yet, in 1965, Blacks still had no right to vote. Their efforts to register and vote were routinely suppressed, often violently throughout the South. The same was true for Latinos, for Asian Americans. Young people could serve in the military but had no right to vote.
At Selma, John Lewis walked with amazing courage into mounted police blocking the way. He was beaten badly in the police riot that followed, fearing for his very life. That scene outraged a nation. Two weeks later, Lyndon Johnson pledged that “we shall overcome” and introduced what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into Congress. That act outlawed discrimination in the right to vote by race, color or language minority status. After that act, young people received the right to vote. Women’s rights were expanded. Full American democracy was born.
John Lewis was a true hero, but he did not act alone. As he would always teach, he found his place in the civil rights movement that had been building when he was a young child. Thurgood Marshall spearheaded the legal strategy that ended with the Brown decision in the Supreme Court. Rosa Parks sat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested for ignoring white-only rules. Her courage and sacrifice drew Dr. Martin Luther King to the struggle in Montgomery.
King’s organizing drew the attention of a young John Lewis in Troy, Alabama.
John Lewis was a leader, but he was more workhorse than show horse. Show horses preen to win the blue ribbon and the applause of the crowd. Workhorses pull the wagon — and get the job done. John Lewis with his quiet courage and his forceful moral vision pulled people with him. Elected to Congress, he put the Congress on his shoulders and tried by example and by organizing to make it better.
He never stopped. He took joy in how far we had come. There was a direct line from that horrible Bloody Sunday in Selma to the election of an African American president. Yet he knew we still have a long way to go.
No longer do we face separate and unequal public facilities. Our right to vote is clear, even if efforts to suppress it continue. But the final chapter of the civil rights movement — the effort to achieve economic justice — has been frustrated. Today economic inequality is as great as it was 60 years ago. We witness the structural racism that ends with African Americans three times more likely than whites to be infected during the pandemic and two times more likely to die. We witness the entrenched discrimination that ends in the police killing of George Floyd and many others.
That’s why the extraordinary, unprecedented outpouring of protests for Black lives is so important. John has left us, but millions have picked up the baton that he once carried — focused now on equal justice under the law, and on ending the structural racism that makes racial inequality a pre-existing condition. May John’s example — his courage, his devotion to nonviolence and to a lifetime of making “good trouble” — help inform that struggle as it goes forward.
The democracy of 1787, where only white male landowners could vote, referencing Blacks as three-fifths human, without regard for working-class whites and women, was very incomplete — it has no export value in the world today. But the democracy of 1965, where Blacks can vote, white women can vote and serve on juries, Latinos and native Americans, 18-year-olds can vote on college campuses, that Selma democracy is the envy of the world.
Let us cherish it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump on Monday.
Chicago police officers investigate the scene of a deadly shooting where a 7-year-old girl and a man were fatally shot on July 5.
Rep. John Lewis, a seminal leader of the United States’ civil rights movement, died on July 17.