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As the Senate approves assistance, Schumer declares, “We can do big stuff.”

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As the Senate approves assistance, Schumer declares, "We can do big stuff."

 

Tensions were high in the Senate just before midnight, as Republican leader Mitch McConnell rose to publicly mock Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the daylong delay as Democrats squabbled over the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package.

But it was Schumer, D-N.Y., who reveled in the last word, an unabashedly upbeat “help is on the way” to Americans suffering from the pandemic and lockdowns, as the Senate prepared to pass the huge package without a single Republican vote just 12 hours later.

The Senate’s passage of the massive relief bill on Saturday moves President Joe Biden’s top priority closer to becoming law, paving the way for billions in vaccinations, $1,400 direct grants, and other assistance, and demonstrating that Schumer, in his first big test as majority leader, can unify and deliver the votes.

“Lessons learned: If we work together, we can accomplish great things,” Schumer told The Associated Press after the vote.

“Because it worked,” he said, the result “gives us hope about doing more major things in the future.”

Stewardship of the huge pandemic relief package was an early test of Washington’s new power dynamics, putting Democratic control of the White House and Congress to the test for the first time in a decade and laying the groundwork for Biden’s agenda.

Too much of Biden’s success or failure hinges on the Senate, where Democrats hold a 50-50 majority, a majority so fragile that any single senator can sway the legislative agenda. Although Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie vote, Schumer has little leeway if Republicans oppose the virus aid, voting in lockstep on Saturday against it as bloated and needless. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key moderate, wavered on an unemployment clause, throwing the proceedings into disarray ahead of a grueling all-night session.

Senators have been told privately by Biden that their vote on pandemic aid would help create support for the next set of goals. As part of his “Build Back Better” campaign agenda, an ambitious infrastructure package is emerging to introduce highways, broadband, and green-energy initiatives to the entire country. As the Senate leader shepherded the pandemic help to ratification, he and Schumer talked often. It’s now on its way back to the House for a final vote, which could happen as soon as Monday.

Although no senators seemed to be willing to vote against Biden’s top priority, the next votes could be more challenging.

“There are a whole set of topics that quite a number of us were discussing,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a Biden ally ready for bipartisanship who met with the president shortly after the vote.

“This was a reminder yesterday that in a 50-50 Senate, if one member changes their mind on an amendment, debate, or question, the result can be changed,” Coons said.

Filibuster provisions will apply to voting rights, immigration law amendments, and other legislation, requiring 60 votes instead of 51 to pass, a nearly daunting challenge in the face of Republican resistance, which is fueling calls to reform the process to ensure Biden’s priorities don’t flame out.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, a member of the leadership, said, “We’re going to have to have conversations about that.”

But that was a discussion for another day. Democrats elbowed and applauded in the chamber on Saturday as they ushered the huge aid package they had promised voters to acceptance — Stabenow said some were almost in tears. With ten million jobs lost and countless schools and companies closed, it provides additional unemployment insurance of $300 a week, money for school reopenings, eviction rights, and small business assistance.

“To be able to do something so large, and so important, just 45 days after Joe Biden became President of the United States, that fundamentally is the glue for us,” she said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, described it as the “best day” of his Senate career. McConnell, R-Ky., made a jab at the Democrats’ temporary disarray in his address. Brown dismissed it as cynical and devoid of substance.

Brown replied, “So what?” “No one gives a damn about it. What matters to them is whether or not we were effective in reducing unemployment. Is it true that we delivered vaccines? Did we keep our word on pensions? We were able to reduce child poverty by half. Take a look at that.”

McConnell led Republicans in mounting a filibuster of opposition, reviving a tactic used against the 2009 financial crisis bailout plan when Democrats were in power, when Barack Obama was president.

Following Donald Trump’s election, McConnell and the Republicans who controlled Congress with a narrower Senate majority used similar legislative maneuvers to approve the $2 trillion GOP tax cuts on a party-line vote in 2017. When Sen. John McCain and two other Republicans voted with Democrats, their attempt to dismantle and replace the health-care reform known as “Obamacare” failed, and McConnell was unable to keep his party together.

Schumer took out his not-so-secret tool, the flat flip-phone, from his stately office off the Senate floor, with the lived-in feel of the rumpled New Yorker, which he uses for his frequent calls keeping in contact with senators on their votes.

“Every member of our party, from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin, understands that we had to work together, that if we didn’t, we’d all be hurt,” Schumer said, referring to Vermont’s most liberal senator and West Virginia’s moderate senator.

As Manchin paused, Schumer, along with other senators and even Biden, called him. Manchin, on the other hand, had plenty of time — hours dragged on — to make up his mind.

Brown said of Schumer, “He listens to everyone and then he brings it together.” “He’s a natural at it.”

When the votes were counted on Saturday, Schumer pointed to the two new senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. They had shocked the political community by beating two Republican incumbents in special elections in January, giving Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives.

Afterward, Warnock said, “The people of Georgia deserve a great deal of credit for what happened here today.” “We simply would not be here if they had not stepped up in such a strong way in this landmark election that sent Jon Ossoff and myself to the Senate.”

Schumer pressed the presiding officer to declare the 50-49 vote. One Republican senator was unable to vote due to a family emergency. It was unnecessary for Harris to break the tie.

“We are a fine team,” Schumer said to his colleagues.

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MLK Day takes on localized urgency after George Floyd’s murder, COVID

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MLK Day takes on localized urgency after George Floyd’s murder, COVID

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase “the fierce urgency of now” burst with fresh resonance Monday – in the city where George Floyd was murdered.

The phrase was the theme of the 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Day Holiday Breakfast, at which a series of speakers outlined what should be done – fiercely and urgently – to alleviate racism.

“The ‘fierce urgency of now’ is prophetic today,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel-Minneapolis to an estimated 11,000 online viewers.

Separately, Gov. Tim Walz sponsored the 35th annual State of Minnesota Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, this year entitled “Beloved Community in Action.”

At both events, most speakers invoked the memory of Floyd as a reason why Minnesotans should be especially attuned to the message of King.

“The world watched as George Floyd lost his life at the hands of law enforcement,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. The response, she said, “helped us realize how much we need each other, and how resilient we can be.”

Because of the pandemic both events were held virtually, relying on YouTube and Facebook. General Mills is the long-time sponsor of the King Holiday Breakfast.

For the second year, the breakfast event didn’t involve a breakfast at all, but a virtual series of speeches, interviews and songs.

Co-chair Kenneth Edwards said the format has advantages – he doesn’t have to worry about seating capacity in large halls. Last year 6,000 people attended virtually, a three-fold increase from past in-person events. The format allowed viewers from 10 states and 11 countries to participate.

This year’s total of 11,000 will make it one of the biggest King-holiday events in the country.

The event raises money for the United Negro College Fund, and last year it collected $400,000. Laura Coates, a St. Paul native and CNN host and legal analyst, gave the keynote address.

To her, the “fierce urgency of now” translates into daily tasks done by ordinary citizens. “The perception is that you have to make grand gestures,” Coates said. But in local issues and day-to-day routines, people can make a difference.

She cited paying attention to the potential racial impact of local businesses, energy companies and transportation departments.

She called on viewers to confront racism — even if it’s uncomfortable.

“We don’t grow in the comfort zone,” said Coates. “We languish in the comfort zone.”

She cited Dr. King’s request: “All we ask of America is to be what it says it is — on paper.”

In the Minnesota state celebration of King’s birthday, Gov. Walz introduced speakers including federal, state and local officials, and a series of school-age children.

The highlight was an interview with Matthew Cherry, a former NFL player who won an Oscar in 2020 for his short animated film “Hair Love.”

Breakfast event co-chair Edwards summed up King’s legacy for Minnesotans this way:

“We are at a moment where there is awareness. People are looking for an opportunity to take action.”

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Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

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Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

By JULIE WALKER and KAREN MATTHEWS

NEW YORK (AP) — A dangerous winter storm brought significant snowfall, strong thunderstorms and blustery winds to the northeastern U.S. on a holiday Monday.

The storm system dropped a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow in parts of New York state, Ohio and Pennsylvania Sunday night through Monday morning after pummeling parts of the Southeast on Sunday.

“We’ve had a very strong area of low pressure that’s kind of moved up the coast, with pretty heavy snowfall accumulations from Tennessee, North Carolina all the way into the northeast,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard at the weather service’s headquarters in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, said almost 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow fell by 1 p.m. Monday. The city advised people not to travel if they didn’t need to on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while some surrounding towns instituted a travel ban.

“WOW! (Latest) snow measurement at 1 AM was 4.6 inches in the last hour at the Buffalo Airport!” the National Weather Service in Buffalo tweeted overnight. “And tack on another 4 inches in the last hour ending at 2 AM! Total so far since late Sun evening – 10.2 inches.”

Weather service meteorologist Alexa Maines said 15 inches (38 centimeters) or more of snow were reported in Cleveland, Ohio, and 25 inches (63 centimeters) in parts of Ashtabula County in the northeast corner of the state.

Power outages affected tens of thousands of customers in the northeast, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Many COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites had to close down.

New York City got less than an inch of snow, which was washed away by rain overnight. The weather service said spotty showers and snow showers might continue through Monday night.

Forecasters said wind gusts in New York City could top out around 45 mph (72 kph), and around 60 mph (97 kph) on Long Island.

Sleet and rain were the main threats for much of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Periods of snowfall transitioned to rain overnight. NWS meteorologists in Boston said wind gusts could reach 70 mph (113 kph).

The howling winds spread a fire that destroyed a motel and two other structures in coastal Salisbury, Massachusetts, early Monday.

The storm brought similar conditions Sunday to the Southeast, where thousands were still without power Monday.

Multiple states reported heavy snowfall, and two people died Sunday in North Carolina when their car drove off the road. The roof of a dormitory partially collapsed in the state at Brevard College, with officials saying it broke under the weight of snow. There were no injuries.

Severe thunderstorms in Florida spun up a tornado with 118 mph (190 kph) winds, destroying 30 mobile homes and majorly damaging 51 more. Three minor injuries were reported.

Wet roadways in the South were expected to refreeze Monday, creating icy conditions for motorists.

Plow trucks were scattered along roads and highways up the East Coast, working to clear the way for travelers. Some crashes were reported in the early morning hours, including an ambulance involved in a wreck on Interstate 279 in Pittsburgh, KDKA-TV reported. It was unclear whether anyone was injured.

___

Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie contributed from Richmond, Virginia.

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Rosemount plans 2,000-home development on former UMN land

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Rosemount plans 2,000-home development on former UMN land

Rosemount has moved a 2,000-home project onto the launching pad.

The 435-acre Amber Fields will be the first project built on former University of Minnesota land which has sat mostly undeveloped since WWII.

“We have seen a lot of 20-, 40- and 60-acre projects,” said City Administrator Logan Martin. “But 435 acres? Wow!”

Amber Fields will be one of the biggest housing developments in the metro area, he said. The city recently approved the project, and construction on the site is expected to begin in March.

The sprawling development will be mostly south of Dakota County Road 42 and west of Dakota County Technical College. A preliminary map of the site includes 638 single-family homes, 740 apartment units, 568 townhomes and an unspecified number of other homes.

Five acres have been set aside for commercial development along County Road 42, and a school may occupy a 20-acre site. The plans call for five ponds and 60 acres of parks and open space.

The Amber Fields site is part of the 4,772-acre UMore Park property owned by the University.

In 1942, the federal government purchased the land for a gunpowder manufacturing facility. After WWII, it gave the land to the University of Minnesota, which has used it for a research site. In 2006, the university released its long-term development vision for the property, but development stalled. Nine years later, the university gave up on plans to develop the land itself, instead opting for private developers.

The University Board of Regents in 2020 approved a plan for Minneapolis-based Maplewood Development to buy the land for $13 million.

The complete buildout of Amber Fields is expected to take up to eight years.

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