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Soaring household debt leaves Liberals with ‘extremely complicated’ task of winding down COVID-19 support programs

OTTAWA — Rising household debts are set to heap even more strain onto the Canadian economy in coming months, leaving the Liberal government to grapple with the difficult question of how and when to unwind its massive support programs, economists say.

Canada has for years held some of the highest household debt levels among developed nations, something in sharp focus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must now begin the “extremely complicated” work of tweaking and tapering his costly assistance programs in order to avoid a wave of defaults after those supports are removed, says CIBC economist Benjamin Tal. That will require a deft hand by Ottawa, in which programs may need to be extended, reduced, or otherwise tailored to meet individual worker needs.

“The debate now is not how much money to spend, but how to start withdrawing it,” he said.

Debt holders have enjoyed highly favourable interest rates for well over a decade, after the 2008 economic recession sent borrowing costs to record lows. But economic lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus have sent unemployment rates soaring, putting renewed focus on high household indebtedness in Canada, even as rates remain low.

“This crisis is exposing our vulnerability, there’s no doubt about it,” Tal said.

His comments came after Evan Siddall, president and CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that the country is headed toward a “debt deferral cliff” in coming months as mortgage payments come due.

Earlier this year, lenders began offering six-month deferrals on mortgages for families struggling to make ends meet.

The policy has provided temporary relief for some, but won’t reduce mortgage costs once the deferral period is over, at a time when many people could still be unemployed or working on a limited basis. If Ottawa at the same time begins winding down programs like its $2,000-per-month Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, or if people returning to the workforce on a limited basis are made ineligible for the support, mortgage stresses are likely to pile up.

“That’s where we’ll see income suddenly falling, and delinquency rates rising,” Tal said.

This crisis is exposing our vulnerability

The CMHC expects that roughly 20 per cent of households could request deferrals on their mortgages during the pandemic, up from the current 12 per cent. The agency also estimates that roughly the same number of households, 20 per cent, could be in arrears if the economy does not substantially improve.

At the same time, Canadians have for years continued to heap on increasingly amounts of mortgage and credit card debt — a circumstance that economists and international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, have repeatedly warned could put the Canadian economy at risk.

Household debt as a percentage of GDP has been on a steep climb over the past 20 years, rising from 58 per cent in 2000 to 99 per cent in 2019, according to the Bank of Canada.

The pandemic could push that figure as high as 130 per cent by the third quarter of this year, according to CMHC projections. By comparison, household debt as a percentage of GDP was 75 per cent in the U.S. before the pandemic, and 61 per cent in France. Household debt was among the top concerns repeatedly voiced by outgoing Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz.

Something will have to give

Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Credit Union Central Alberta, said high household debt levels are certain to have some sort of negative consequences in the face of such a widespread income shock, and after mortgage deferrals are lifted.

“Something will have to give,” he said.

Those debt strains will be particularly hard to navigate as the economy is reopened in gradual segments, leaving some workers both ineligible for programs like CERB, but unable to work full time. Many restaurants, for example, are likely to be operating well below full capacity, which will be passed down to servers, managers and kitchen staff.

Already, the average Canadian family spends about 15 cents for every dollar servicing its debt obligations. Roughly half of that, St-Arnaud said, goes toward interest payments alone.

“I think it’s a big risk for the Canadian economy going forward,” he said.

Even so, borrowing costs remain at very low levels, and are unlikely to rise in the near future as the economy retracts, according to economists. Savings among many families have also been uncommonly high during the pandemic, which will further drive down household debt risks. A few quarters of rapid GDP growth would substantially lower household debt ratios.

But there is still ongoing debate over whether interest rates could be on the rise in coming years, particularly after central banks around the world inject vast sums of money into the global economy.

“In the next year or two, I think the discussion will be deflation, not inflation,” said Tal. “However, I think as we reach 2022 or 2023, there’s a risk, to some extent, of inflationary pressure.”

• Email: jsnyder@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Coronavirus Pandemic: Senator Kamala Harris Introduces Resolution Condemning Use of ‘Wuhan Virus’ as Racist

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Democrats hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol before the start of President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, January 31, 2020. (Amanda Voisard/Reuters)

Senator Kamala Harris last week introduced a resolution condemning the use of the phrase “Wuhan virus” to refer to SARS-CoV-2, the deadly coronavirus that has spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan across the globe, as racist.

Harris introduced the resolution on Thursday, joined by fellow Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. It aims to “condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance” related to the coronavirus, and specifically cites phrases such as “Wuhan virus,” “Chinese virus,” and “Kung-flu.” It also calls on federal officials to “expeditiously investigate and document” credible reports of hate crimes or threats against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities and “investigate and prosecute perpetrators” if necessary.

President Trump briefly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” defending his use of the term by saying “it comes from China,” but later backed away from the phrase after reports of an uptick in violence against Asian Americans.

“Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn’t make any more of a big deal out of it,” Trump said in early March.

“Inflammatory and racist rhetoric from officials at the highest level of our government has contributed to a disturbing rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans,” Hirono said last month when announcing plans to introduce the resolution.

The coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan late last year and is thought to have passed from bats to humans through the city’s “wet markets.” Since then, it has spread to at least 177 countries and infected more than 4.9 million people globally. As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 324,900 people have died after contracting it.

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Republican senators still cool to more coronavirus relief spending, but willing to talk about PPP revamp

Senate Republicans appear generally supportive of a bipartisan House plan to fix the PPP loan program to allow businesses greater flexibility in spending the loan money they receive, even as they remain cool to passing another large-scale relief bill.

“I hear a lot of pushback about the 75-25 [split of how businesses can spend the loans], yeah, so that’s something we could maybe find common ground on,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told NBC News.

“I think it would be appropriate to do it,” said North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer. “I think constituents would like us to do that kind of work.”

The picture that emerges from conversations with Republican senators is that there’s a philosophical difference at play: Congress should be focusing on reopening, not relief. In practice, that means ending expanded unemployment benefits, potentially modifying rules for spending money already appropriated, and easing the path for businesses to reopen and rehire — a reopened economy is the relief.

Senators expressed a similar willingness to tinker with programs they’ve already passed, while still maintaining that now is not the time to pass another massive relief-oriented spending bill.

“Why would you load up the money cannon again, and fire that off, when a majority of the biggest monstrosity we’ve ever even contemplated hasn’t even been deployed yet?” asked Sen. Pat Toomey.

Graham said that a bill his Judiciary Committee is writing to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits related to the coronavirus would be a key component in any GOP legislation.

“We’re trying to find common ground with Democrats, think you got to have a regulatory scheme that would protect consumers and employees,” Graham said.

Sen. Rob Portman acknowledged that Republicans have made a mistake by focusing on attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response to the crisis, rather than offering more alternative measures of their own. He suggested using money Democrats would like to see spent on continuing $600 unemployment insurance plus-ups be spent instead on offering rehiring bonuses.

“That’s what I’m proposing. Back to work bonus to get people back to work when they can get their health care, get their retirement, get other benefits that most people want, people want to go back to work,” Portman said. “We shouldn’t be creating incentives [to not work] and that’s what the House bill does.”

At her weekly news conference on Wednesday, Pelosi said she had not been approached by the administration or the Republican Senate leadership about negotiating a next bill.

“I think public opinion will be very much our friend in all of this,” Pelosi told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated Tuesday that he’s in no hurry to take it up.

“We still believe, with regard to the coronavirus, we need to assess what we’ve already done, take a look at what worked and what didn’t. And we’ll discuss the way forward in the next couple of weeks,” McConnell said Tuesday.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, signaled movement on future legislation in the Senate is far from imminent,

“I do think we will move on a Phase 4 before the August break, would be my guess. And it’s more intuitive than informed,” Blunt told reporters Wednesday.

“I think it’s reasonable for us not to yet have a sense of what either the fight against the virus or the fight for the economy is going to look like in August and September, which is really the period that whatever we do now should be focused on,” he added.

Blunt also said there are sticking points among Republicans surrounding topics like infrastructure — something that President Donald Trump wants but McConnell has indicated he can do without.

On his way out of the Capitol, Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., echoed Blunt. “I know there’s sort of the sense to do something but the question is what is that something?” he said. “There’s not a broad agreement on that yet, we got big differences of opinion within the conference.”

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QAnon supporter Jo Rae Perkins wins primary for US Senate in Oregon

In winning the Oregon GOP primary for the US Senate Tuesday, Jo Rae Perkins became the seventh Republican congressional candidate who openly supports QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that maintains the president is secretly fighting “deep state” operatives and Democratic pedophiles.

Perkins won a four-way race for the party’s Senate nomination, earning just short of 50 percent of the vote. Former naval officer Paul Romero finished second with 30 percent. Perkins will face off with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in the general election on November 3, which Merkley is expected to win.

Nevertheless, her victory — which came by a significant margin — is emblematic of the conspiracy theory’s influence among conservative voters, as is the way Perkins highlighted it in her victory speech.

In the speech, Perkins pointedly repeats the group’s most used catchphrase before thanking fellow supporters. “Where we go one, we go all,” she said. “I stand with President Trump, I stand with Q and the team. Thank you, Anons, and thank you, patriots. Together, we can save our republic.”

At its heart, QAnon supporters believe that a secretive network of government officials, Democratic politicians, and liberal elites are running an international pedophile ring and conspiring to bring down the president because he’s close to bringing them to justice.

The theory began circulating in October 2017, as Vox’s Jane Coaston explained:

QAnon is a conspiracy theory based around an anonymous online poster known as “Q” — a pseudonym that comes from the Q-level security clearance, the Department of Energy equivalent of “Top Secret.” Beginning on October 28, 2017, Q began posting on the 4chan message board /pol/ about Hillary Clinton’s imminent arrest. Followers of Q became known as QAnon, and they began awaiting “The Storm,” during which all of Trump’s enemies, including Rep. Adam Schiff and others, would be arrested and executed for being murderous child-eating pedophiles.

President Trump has not publicly embraced the conspiracy theory, but he hasn’t been shy about retweeting its supporters. And other conservative politicians like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) have occasionally winked at the group through dog-whistle statements (Gosar later said he unwittingly retweeted the QAnon message, though he never deleted the tweet). Support for “Q” has become a staple in crowds at Trump rallies around the US over the past few years.

Celebrities like actress Roseanne Barr and former athlete turned conservative activist Curt Schilling have also shown support for the theory, as have right-wing media figures Alex Jones and Sean Hannity.

It’s clear that the conspiracy theory has taken root within strains of the conservative movement, so Q-supporting candidates like Perkins shouldn’t come as a surprise — especially in blue states like Oregon, where GOP organizers tend to view winning a statewide election as an uphill battle and invest less, allowing candidates with fringe views to emerge as nominees.

Perkins made her support for QAnon part of her campaign, saying in a January video that there is a “very strong probability/possibility that Q is a real group of people, military intelligence, working with President Trump.” In a New Year’s Day tweet, she also tweeted about Q. In fact, the conspiracy theory has been a regular topic in the candidate’s social media postings.

In being anointed the GOP nominee to take on incumbent Sen. Merkley, Perkins became the first known Senate candidate to openly support the conspiracy theory. But she has stressed she believes there are many more candidates who believe in QAnon than are willing to admit to it.

While it is difficult to say whether Perkins is correct on this point, there is a growing list of conservative candidates for federal office in 2020 who actively support the theory. According to Media Matters, there are at least five other QAnon-supporting congressional candidates on the federal ballot this fall, including four in California and another in Ohio. And US House candidate Samuel Williams is in a runoff election to settle a Texas primary later this summer.

It’s unclear how likely it is we’ll see an open supporter of Q elected to Congress this fall, but the mere presence of multiple candidates for federal office who support the theory suggests what has essentially been a fringe movement may be gaining a stronger foothold in the Republican party.

Support for Q has grown as Trump has consolidated control over the Republican Party

At its core, Q is about supporting Trump’s power over the federal government. And it allows its adherents to create order out of a chaotic administration that has been plagued with scandal. Under this conspiracy theory, instead of Trump being incompetent, he becomes beleaguered in his fight against evil, monstrous people. It’s a mass self-soothing exercise.

As Coaston explained, conspiracy theories tend to be self-sealing, meaning that they cannot be battled with facts because they are not based on facts to begin with. Trying to reason with a Q supporter using facts tends to end with the supporter only withdrawing deeper into the supposed conspiracy — and Trump’s governing style continually provides new ways to do this.

For instance, Trump has of late embarked on a series of attacks on government oversight and operational norms. Wednesday morning, he threatened to withhold funding to Democratic-controlled battleground states attempting to facilitate vote-by-mail in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And over recent weeks, Trump has purged inspectors general he perceives as disloyal, many of whom were simply doing their jobs by investigating the administration’s actions.

To many outside observers, such actions look like authoritarian power grabs. But to Q supporters, these actions are emblematic of the ways the president is fighting the “deep state.” Essentially, everything Trump does easily fits into this conspiracy theory, meaning there’s no need for its adherents to question his actions.

This means that, in many ways, belief in QAnon is the ultimate show of loyalty, something Trump has made clear he values greatly. The president has never been afraid to use the bully pulpit — and Twitter — to call out those whom he perceived to be disloyal Republican lawmakers. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, and even occasional close confidant Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have found themselves on the receiving end of Trump’s wrath.

In highlighting their support for QAnon, then, candidates like Perkins are signaling to the president that he does not need to worry about them raising his ire as Romney so often does. Instead, he can trust them to be allies and to support his governing style, even if it includes brazen power grabs.

But candidates don’t just win through osmosis or because they are loyal to Trump. It’s important to keep in mind that the candidates espousing these beliefs are appealing to a big enough cross section of Republican voters in Oregon and in districts in California and Ohio that they’re starting to win party primaries.

That such candidates are finding even a little success within the Republican election apparatus should be a worrying sign to party officials about the health and direction of the party going forward — particularly as it tries to deal with Covid-19 and advance more mainstream priorities like appointing conservative judges.


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The Many Masks of Nancy Pelosi

Late last week, as she was leading the charge to push the Democrats’ $3 trillion pandemic relief package through the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi strode the floor of the capitol in a fuchsia pantsuit, red pumps, white shell — and a coordinated red, white and green cherry-print face mask.

This was the day after Ms. Pelosi had stood at a podium for a news conference in a black dress with a complementary dark green and white foliage-print face mask — which was itself not long after she had appeared in a shell-pink pantsuit with a matching shell-pink mask.

Hillary Clinton took note, posting a photo on Instagram with the caption: “Leader of the House majority, and of mask-to-pantsuit color coordination.” The post has been liked more than 250,000 times.

Since late April, when she began wearing silk scarves that were color-coordinated with her suits and shells — orange and orange, blue and blue and cream and brown — and that she had worn bandanna-style around her face, Ms. Pelosi has also modeled a purple suit with a purple/blue, black and white geometric face mask and a white suit and blue shirt with the same.

And though it would be easy to categorize Ms. Pelosi’s masks as fun! and all about self-expression! and — yes — fashion!(as many style watchers have done), her track record and the way her approach contrasts with those around her suggest something more nuanced — though the stratagem is covered, natch, by the accessibility of patterned cloth, the kind we all have to wear and to which we can all relate.

After all, why simply don a face mask when you can also use it to make a political point?

Indeed, the sheer variety of her masks stands out like a beacon amid her sea of aides in generic white or blue medical masks and her dark-masked protective detail. It suggests a commitment to consciously choosing a mask every single day that, more than simply demonstrating good mask habits, civic awareness and solicitude for those around her, or even support for small businesses, demands attention. (Many of her masks come from Donna Lewis, a small store in Alexandria, Va., where she also buys some of her suits; for each mask sold, one is donated to Johns Hopkins hospitals.)

As the president continues to eschew the mask in his public appearances — over the weekend he went without one when meeting in the Rose Garden with Girl Scouts and small business leaders — Ms. Pelosi is making her mask-wearing, and the contrast with those around her, impossible to ignore. Doing so is a constant reminder of the difference between the heads of the executive and legislative branches.

Official Washington may have come relatively late to this particularly emotive symbol of the contemporary culture wars, but it has now fully arrived.

Ms. Pelosi is not the first government official to match her masks to her outfit. That honor goes to the Slovakian president, Zuzana Caputova, whose image went viral in late March at the swearing in of her new coalition government when she wore a burgundy face mask that coordinated perfectly with her burgundy sheath dress. And, apparently, she instructed her new cabinet to wear identical masks (blue) and gloves (white) for the group photo, hence both distinguishing herself from the group and creating a perfectly harmonious picture of civic care.

Likewise, Emmanuel Macron donned a navy mask with a discreet red, white and blue grosgrain ribbon at the side to match his navy suit and little red, white and blue lapel pin on a visit to a school earlier this month.

Melania Trump, too, matched her basic white face mask to her basic white shirt when she appeared in her PSA for mask-wearing in early April. As did Ivanka Trump, who wore a black mask with a black jumpsuit to tour a Maryland produce distributor last week (though that mask had the effect of making her look unsettlingly like a movie bank robber, despite the little American flag pin on the side).

And though most of Congress has now been converted to mask-wearing, as the recent Senate hearings on Covid-19 revealed, with Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina modeling a University of North Carolina booster mask and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a red-and-black tie-dye bandanna. Still, they mostly seem to have resorted to the gimmick mask, the current equivalent of the gimmick tie (see also Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his Washington Nationals mask), the patriot mask (Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina in a stars and stripes and eagles number) or the OK-I’ll-wear-it-if-I-have-to face mask that Vice President Mike Pence wore when he visited the General Motors and Ventec ventilator production plant in Indiana last month.

But no other elected official has embraced the mask with as much relentless and considered eye-catching range as Ms. Pelosi.

In this her resolve is fully in line with the Speaker’s approach to image-making, which has always involved every tool at her disposal, be it a clapback at the State of the Union or her Speaker’s mace pin. She understands that there are ways to make herself and her positions heard even when she isn’t saying anything at all. That at a time when almost all communication is taking place within the confines of a small box, these kinds of details matter.

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Republicans are up in arms about Flynn’s ‘unmasking.’ He was reportedly never masked in the first place.

It’s hard to declassify something that was never classified to begin with.

Republicans have recently taken issue with what they call the “unmasking” of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in FBI documents, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even announcing an investigation into the matter. But Obama administration officials didn’t actually order Flynn’s name unredacted in official FBI documents because his name was never redacted to begin with, former U.S. officials tell The Washington Post.

Unmasking is the practice of identifying an anonymous person in government documents to help others understand what they’re reading. But conservatives have taken issue with Flynn’s alleged unmasking in documents of his calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Graham said he found it problematic that FBI files “did not contain a record showing who unmasked” Flynn and asked for that information himself; some conservatives have suggested former Vice President Joe Biden was to blame.

But the source of the unmasking may not have been in the FBI files because Flynn was never anonymous in the first place, the Post reports. “When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because it was necessary for understanding the call, one former senior official said. “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.” An aide to Graham still said he’d like to see the director of national intelligence answer his letter. Read more at The Washington Post.

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Trump Campaign Launches Talk Show Critiquing ‘Fake News’ On ‘The View’

President Donald Trump’s campaign is launching a talk show Wednesday evening critiquing ABC’s “The View” for the network’s portrayal of the president and “fake news.”

The first episode of the “The Right View” premieres at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and will feature top Trump 2020 advisers Lara Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Mercedes Schlapp and Katrina Pierson.

The show will air every Wednesday at the same time, highlighting topics such as 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden’s “gaffes and weak leadership,” and Trump’s efforts to combat coronavirus and reopen the economy. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Trump Campaign Launches ‘Moms For Trump’ Coalition)

WATCH:

“For too long, women on ABC’s ‘The View’ have believed they represent all women’s views,” Schlapp, the Trump 2020 senior adviser to Strategic Communications, said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They project the fake news’ narrative to viewers across the country and are obsessed with their blatant hatred of President Trump.”

“Our new series — ‘The Right View’ — will make talk shows great again by breaking through the mainstream media’s deception and providing the facts about President Trump’s clear record of accomplishment,” she added.

“The View” did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Biden’s outreach to Dems lags as Trump syncs up with GOP

In contrast, Democrats still say they are in piecemeal coordination with Biden, and his team is listening to their advice. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had a lengthy call with Biden last week, and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is offering guidance to the campaign on how to talk to swing voters about sportsman issues and land use in the interior West.

“There wasn’t a lot of input from 2016, I will tell you. In 2020, they are seeking our input,” Heinrich said, contrasting Hillary Clinton’s campaign with Biden’s.

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, recently held a conference call with centrist House Democrats. The campaign has been trading talking points with Pelosi’s office in recent weeks.

Biden and Pelosi have talked “several times” since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a senior Democratic aide. And Schumer and Biden served together and talk regularly, particularly during the March negotiations over the $2 trillion coronavirus bill. Most Democrats say the sporadic outreach won’t ultimately sink Biden’s campaign as an alternative to Trump, who faces sagging approval ratings.

“All of us wish we weren’t constrained by the restrictions of virtual communication. We all look forward to a time we can actually be together again,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “But I don’t think it’s doing any lasting damage.”

For the gregarious and voluble Biden, his self-quarantine for the last few months has been a particularly difficult adjustment. Instead of chummy huddles with long-time allies on the Hill, Biden has mostly been relegated to television appearances from a makeshift studio in his Delaware basement. Even once he formally becomes nominee, it’s not clear he’ll be able to tour swing states with incumbent House and Senate Democrats and insurgent candidates trying to oust Republicans.

Senior GOP officials say Biden’s isolation will chip away at his ability to court both Democratic officials and voters.

“It really is a disadvantage to be holed up in your basement indefinitely,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican. “These circumstances make it especially hard for someone like Biden. He’s kind of a glad-hander and sort of needs to be out there. And this reinforces the narrative that is out there about them. That he’s, you know, not up to doing this.”

To Republicans, all that time spent with Trump at the White House, Camp David and the golf course will pay dividends in November. At the same time, it could also anchor the party’s vulnerable lawmakers to Trump if the bottom falls out of his re-election campaign. But after everyone but Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) acquitted Trump of impeachment, there may be no other way for Republicans to run.

“I see Donald Trump as desperate. And that his coming over here to glad-hand in person with a bunch of Republicans as the ultimate act of desperation,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “The way I see it, Biden’s doing what he should be doing.”

Allies of the former vice president point out that the pandemic has upended all parts of American life, including the traditional aspects of a presidential campaign — from personal meetings with key elected officials to weekly rallies with thousands of supporters. Biden also hasn’t been able to get critical facetime with the freshman Democrats, most of them centrists in GOP-leaning districts, who delivered Pelosi the House in 2018. Ditto Democrats challenging Republican senators in swing states.

Unlike Pelosi and Schumer, many of those new Democrats don’t know Biden from his decades in Congress or have only had limited interactions with him on the campaign and fundraising circuits. And yet he is now the leader of the Democratic Party and will appear on the same ticket with them come November.

House Democrats’ campaign arm has been advising vulnerable incumbents for months to build out their own distinctive campaigns, regardless of who the eventual presidential nominee would be. That way those lawmakers can tie themselves as much or as little to Biden as they want, even if the top of the ticket might weigh heavily on their results.

Still, Biden has managed to make a memorable impression on some freshmen.

In 2011, years before he ran for Congress, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) hosted an event for Biden in which the then-vice president spent more time with the food service workers who had set up the catering operation in Phillips’ garage than he did with the events’ attendees.

“That left an indelible mark on me, the way that he treated the people who really matter that day,” Phillips said in an interview. “I respect him and he’s an honorable and decent man. I’ll never forget it — I’ve got pictures of it in fact. He left a mark on me that day, he really did.”

John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Actor Hagen Mills Dead at Age 29

Hagen Mills, a 29-year-old actor who has played small roles in television shows, allegedly turned a gun on himself on Tuesday.

While he lived in Hollywood at times, he still had a home in Mayfield, Kentucky, which is where he was at the time of the shooting.

According to the Mayfield Police Department, he also shot his ex-girlfriend, 34-year-old Erica Price, in the chest and arm before shooting himself. Thankfully Price did not die, and according to TMZ, is in stable condition.

“Officers responded to a 911 call shortly after 5:45 p.m. Tuesday reporting that a woman had been shot at a residence on South 10th Street in Mayfield,” police shared Wednesday on Facebook.

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“When Officers arrived, they were met outside the residence by Erica Price, age 34 of Mayfield, with gunshot wounds to her arm and chest. Price was able to tell Officers that the gunman, Hagen Mills, age 29 of Mayfield, was still inside, and had turned the gun on himself.

“Price was transported to the hospital for treatment, and is listed in stable condition. Mills was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Through investigation, it was learned that Price’s mother and young daughter, whom she shared in common with Mills, were held in the residence by Mills until Price returned home.

“When Price entered the residence, she was shot by Mills, before he turned the gun on himself. Price’s mother and daughter were not physically injured during the incident.”

According to information obtained by Heavy through the Graves County Jail website, Mills had been arrested in March on kidnapping, wanton endangerment, rape and sodomy charges.

The West Kentucky Star reported he was in jail until Monday, when he bonded out — the day before the shooting.

RELATED: Former WWE Star’s Body Found on Venice Beach

Mills appeared in shows like “Baskets” and the documentary “Bonnie & Clyde: Justified,” and his acting career began in 2011.

The young actor’s funeral will be handled by the Byrn Funeral Home in Mayfield.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Senate Panel, Urged On by Trump, Subpoenas Biden-Related Material

Senate Republicans moved on Wednesday to resurrect unsubstantiated claims that Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son helped a Ukrainian energy firm curry favor with the Obama administration when his father was vice president, voting over Democratic opposition to subpoena documents for an investigation that President Trump hopes to weaponize for his re-election campaign.

The party-line vote by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was part of an emerging push by Republicans to use their Senate majority in ways intended to help Mr. Trump as he tries to rewrite the narrative of the Russia investigation to implicate his political rivals and divert attention from the coronavirus crisis.

Even as the committee acted, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were preparing to begin pursuing subpoenas of their own on Thursday aimed at uncovering abuses by investigators studying the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the first step in a series of televised hearings they have planned throughout the summer, at the president’s urging. Among those they want to call for testimony are James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence; Loretta E. Lynch, President Barack Obama’s attorney general; and Denis McDonough, Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff.

Republicans insist that their work is not about smearing Mr. Biden, but rather exposing potential wrongdoing and unwinding years of unfair attacks on Mr. Trump.

“If nothing happened, the American people need to know that,” Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told reporters after his meeting. “If something happened, they need to know that as well. We are just seeking the truth here.”

But the recent uptick in activity comes after Mr. Trump has prodded senators in recent weeks to “get tough” on investigations of his perceived enemies, including warning them privately in a lunch on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that if Republicans did not stick together, “vicious” Democrats would wipe them all out in November.

Once reticent to echo Mr. Trump’s allegations of a “witch hunt,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has in recent days adopted the president’s lines of attack, painting him as the victim of vague and unspecified crimes by Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama. Eliding the involvement of high-level Trump appointees, Mr. McConnell suggested in remarks on the Senate floor this week that the Obama administration had used “the awesome power of the federal government to pry into their political rivals.”

“An American citizen’s campaign for the American presidency was treated like a hostile foreign power by our own law enforcement — in part because a Democrat-led executive branch manipulated documents, hid contrary evidence, and made a D.N.C.-funded dossier a launchpad for an investigation,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday, as he discussed the forthcoming subpoenas.

His comments came just a few days after Mr. Trump criticized the majority leader on Twitter for failing to exact revenge on Democrats, endorsing the view that Mr. McConnell would be putting the Senate Republican majority at risk if he did not take a more aggressive stance.

“Time is running out,” the president wrote. “Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught. They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country.”

Senate Democrats have refused to take part in the inquiries so far, dismissing them as thinly veiled political stunts.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, accused Republicans on Wednesday of turning Senate hearing rooms into de facto Fox News studios where they could “invent scapegoats for the president to use in his re-election campaign.”

In a raucous debate ahead of Wednesday’s subpoena vote, Democrats argued the Homeland Security Committee, which has broad oversight over federal response to emergencies like the pandemic, was putting more American lives at risk by neglecting its duty to hold oversight hearings with Trump administration officials.

“Today’s agenda says a lot about the Senate majority’s priorities, sadly,” said Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, who is said to be under consideration as a possible running mate for Mr. Biden. “There are literally matters of life and death waiting for our committee’s attention, but instead this committee is doing the president’s personal political bidding.”

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign, said Mr. Johnson was focused on “running a political errand for Donald Trump by wasting Homeland Security Committee time and resources attempting to resurrect a craven, previously debunked smear against Vice President Biden.”

Unlike in the House, the use of subpoenas — particularly partisan ones — is exceedingly rare in the Senate.

The subpoena approved on Wednesday does not directly demand anything of the Bidens. It targets a government relations firm, Blue Star Strategies, for records about its work with Burisma, a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm that put Hunter Biden on its board.

The exact scope of Republicans’ inquiry has been unclear. Mr. Johnson has said he is interested in finding out if Burisma used the younger Mr. Biden to gain an unfair foothold in the Obama administration. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has pushed for the Senate to investigate whether Mr. Biden as vice president tried to force Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating Burisma to protect his son. (Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to open a similar investigation resulted in his impeachment last year.)

But during Wednesday’s debate, at least one Republican made clear he was pushing Mr. Trump’s line.

“The public deserves to know how a guy who was vice president of the United States, who is currently trying to be president, got away with using the United States government to use a foreign country to stop investigating a company that was paying his son over $80,000 a month,” said Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida.

The inquiry by the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be focused on highlighting what its chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and the president have described as grave misdeeds by the investigators which they say put a cloud of suspicion around Mr. Trump beginning in 2016.

First, Mr. Graham plans to hold hearings on the government’s decision to drop charges against Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., as well as on requests that Mr. Biden and other officials in the Obama administration made to reveal the identity of an unnamed American, who later turned out to be Mr. Flynn, referenced in intelligence reports about communications with Russia. Mr. Trump and his allies have insinuated that the requests were nefarious and part of a plot to entrap Mr. Flynn into lying to the authorities, but such requests are common and there is no evidence so far to back up their claim.

Mr. Graham said he would then look at mistakes made by the F.B.I. and Justice Department officials in applications to secretly wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, building on a damning inspector general report that found negligence and sloppiness, but no evidence of widespread political bias. Mr. Graham ultimately intends to question whether Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, should have ever been appointed to carry on the Russia inquiry.

While the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin considering the subpoenas on Thursday, it will not vote until early June. Mr. Graham wants to be able to subpoena documents or testimony from more than 50 national security officials who worked in the White House, the Justice Department or the intelligence agencies during Mr. Obama’s presidency and the early days of Mr. Trump’s.

“I want to get all the information out there,” he told reporters on Tuesday.