Democrats Dismiss McConnell’s Suggestion for Stimulus Deal

“What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said on Tuesday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, signaled on Tuesday that he would be willing to drop his demand for a sweeping liability shield as part of a pandemic stimulus package, provided that Democrats abandoned their insistence on including billions of dollars for cash-strapped state, local and tribal governments.

Democrats immediately dismissed Mr. McConnell’s suggestion as a nonstarter, but it was the first offer of a major concession since congressional leaders agreed last week to renew their efforts to reach a deal on another round of coronavirus relief before they conclude this year’s session. Mr. McConnell has previously called the liability provision a “red line,” refusing to consider any stimulus package that lacked one.

“We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday, offering a tacit acknowledgment of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

Democrats panned the idea, after months of insisting that any stimulus agreement include funds to bolster state and local governments that have lost hundreds of billion of dollars during the pandemic and are facing devastating budget cuts. Republicans have branded the provision as a “blue-state bailout,” though state officials in both parties have lobbied for additional relief.

“He’s sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not getting a good reception,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, charging that “Senator McConnell is trying to pull the rug out from beneath” lawmakers working to hash out an agreement.

Mr. Schumer said Democrats’ proposals for funding state and local governments had “broad bipartisan support,” unlike Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal. But a version of the legal shield was included in a $908 billion stimulus compromise put forth by a bipartisan group of moderate senators last week, which Democratic leaders said should be a starting point for negotiations.

Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal would provide five years of legal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for businesses, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations that make “reasonable efforts” to comply with government standards. But many Democrats have rejected what Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, derided as “a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.”

Leaders of both parties have agreed that some form of relief needs to be approved before Congress departs at the end of the year, and to work toward attaching it to a catch-all government spending package. Both chambers are expected to approve a one-week stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown on Friday and buy additional time for negotiators .

As moderates work to cement their compromise, Democrats are also mounting a renewed push to include an additional round of stimulus checks in any deal. Mr. McConnell has omitted it from his stimulus proposals because of conservative concerns that it is too costly.

Goods are piling up at some British ports, as trucks and rail have failed to keep up with companies trying to stockpile ahead of Brexit.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Businesses in Britain and the European Union are bracing for the economic disruption of Brexit, which threatens to clog ports and disrupt trade across the English Channel on Dec. 31 if leaders do not reach a compromise to settle their future trading relationship.

But the economic breakup could have a relatively limited impact on trade with the United States, trade experts said.

Because the United States does not have a free-trade agreement with the European Union, Britain’s departure from the bloc will do little to alter its trading relationship with the United States. Following Brexit, the terms of trade between the United States and Britain will continue to be governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization, as they were before.

The direct effect on the two trade partners “should be minimal given there’s no change in tariffs,” said Christopher Rogers, a global trade and logistics analyst at Panjiva.

Still, he said, significant customs disruptions between Europe and Britain could have knock-on effects for supply chains, if, for example, it takes British businesses that are exporting to the United States longer to source components from abroad. Goods are piling up at some British ports, as trucks and rail have failed to keep up with companies trying to stockpile ahead of Brexit.

Britain’s trading terms with the United States may not get much worse, but they also appear unlikely to get better.

The two countries have been carrying out negotiations for a free-trade deal since May. But with the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the prospects for that agreement, which many Britons saw as a source of post-Brexit strength, have been greatly diminished.

The congressional authority that gives trade deals an easier path to approval by Congress, called trade promotion authority, is set to expire this summer, and Mr. Biden has promised not to enter into any major new trade agreements until the United States has made major investments at home.

Patrick Gaspard has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated as labor secretary under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Credit…Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images

Patrick Gaspard, a former aide to President Barack Obama, U.S. ambassador to South Africa and executive director of the Democratic National Committee, has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated as labor secretary under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Gaspard announced last week that he would step down as the head of the Open Society Foundations, founded by the liberal megadonor George Soros, at the end of the year, fueling speculation in Washington that he was poised to join the incoming administration. He has a background in labor organizing, including a senior leadership position for the Service Employees International Union, which he held before joining the Obama administration.

His potential nomination would give Mr. Biden, who calls himself a “union guy,” a labor secretary with union roots. He would also add to the list of Black cabinet appointees, a key goal of Mr. Biden’s transition team as it seeks to fulfill Mr. Biden’s campaign promise of diversity in the top leadership of his administration.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haitian parents, Mr. Gaspard immigrated to the United States in early childhood, grew up in New York and attended Columbia University before leaving to work on Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. He worked for years in New York City politics and on Howard Dean’s 2004 Democratic presidential bid, and he was an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins. After Mr. Dinkins died last month, Mr. Gaspard wrote on Twitter, “He taught me that you don’t need to be loud to be strong.”

Mr. Gaspard worked for years as an organizer and rose through the Service Employees International Union to become its national political director before joining Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In the Obama White House, Mr. Gaspard served as director of political affairs, before helming the Democratic National Committee and being confirmed as Mr. Obama’s ambassador to South Africa.

Two other possible nominees appear to remain in contention for Labor secretary. One is Julie Su, a labor lawyer and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient who is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The other is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has won support from some key labor unions.

Allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and Mr. Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination this year, had pushed hard for Mr. Sanders to be selected as labor secretary. But Mr. Biden’s short list for the job does not appear to include Mr. Sanders.

Boeing 737 Max aircraft in a lot at Boeing Field in Seattle. The plane was grounded worldwide almost two years ago.
Credit…Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Gol Airlines, a Brazilian carrier, said it planned to start flights aboard the Boeing 737 Max on Wednesday, making it the first airline to fly passengers on the plane since it was grounded worldwide almost two years ago.

The first flights will be on domestic routes to and from Gol’s hub in São Paulo, with the company expecting all seven of the Max planes in its fleet to be updated and cleared to fly by the end of the month. A Gol spokeswoman declined to provide further details.

“Our first priority is always the safety of our customers,” Celso Ferrer, vice president of operations and a commercial pilot at Gol, said in a statement. “Over the past 20 months, we have watched the most comprehensive safety review in the history of commercial aviation unfold.”

The Max was banned worldwide in March 2019 after a total of 346 people were killed in two crashes aboard the plane. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration last month became the first regulator to allow the plane to fly again, after required modifications are made. The agency was recently joined by regulators in Brazil, while the European aviation authority has suggested that it plans to lift its ban within weeks. Relatives of those killed in the crashes criticized the decision to allow the plane to fly again, arguing that it remains unsafe.

The lifting of the ban allows Boeing to restart sales and deliveries in earnest after its passenger airline business was pummeled by the grounding and the pandemic. The plane maker on Tuesday reported a net decline of 61 orders last month. Boeing’s backlog of orders, most of them for the Max, stood at 4,240, down more than a thousand from the start of the year after accounting for fulfilled orders.

Still, airlines are still interested in acquiring the plane. Last week, the company announced it had agreed to sell 75 Max jets to Ryanair, the low-cost European airline. Like RyanAir, Gol is among the biggest customers for the Max. The airline’s fleet is composed of 127 Boeing planes and it has an order for 95 Max jets scheduled for delivery over a decade starting in 2022.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder, in 2018. It’s usually not regular people, employees or even pre-I.P.O. investors who get a windfall from initial public offerings.
Credit…Eric Risberg/Associated Press

A dirty secret of initial public offerings is that even the coolest ones may make only a handful of people rich — and it may not be regular people, employees or even fancy pre-I.P.O. investors who get a windfall.

DoorDash and Airbnb are expected to have spectacular first sales on public stock exchanges this week and start trading at far higher levels than anticipated even a few weeks ago.

But buying stock in relatively young and unproven companies — which usually describes technology companies selling their stock to the public for the first time — is often a coin-toss bet. Even the professional investors who buy stock in hot companies before they go public don’t always get rich, unless they throw their money around early and get lucky. Companies you might have heard of like Uber, Lyft, Snap and Slack were at best meh I.P.O. investments.

Look at Airbnb. Among the investors who got a special chance to buy Airbnb stock nearly four years ago, each $10,000 of stock they bought will be worth about $11,500 if Airbnb starts selling its shares to the public for $60 each. Nice!

But if your aunt had invested $10,000 nearly four years ago in a simple fund that mirrored the ups and downs of the S&P 500 stock index, she would now have $15,600. Even nicer.

The pandemic hurt business for Uber and Lyft, but their stocks were losers before then. Uber’s stock price has bounced back and is now up 30 percent since the spring, and still anyone who bought Uber shares in its 2019 I.P.O. — and even the professional investors who bought its stock in the four years before that — would have made far more money buying an index fund. Uber employees who were hired before the I.P.O. and were paid partly in stock also would have been better off being paid in an index fund.

People who bought stock in Snap, the company behind Snapchat, in its 2017 initial public offering had to wait more than three years to not lose money on their bet. Slack just sold itself at a share price not much higher than its first public stock sale last year.

These are cherry-picked examples. There are companies whose stock prices have soared since their I.P.O.s and made people rich — Zoom Video is a prominent example in technology. And the people who have already bet on the restaurant delivery app DoorDash stand to make a big profit when the company goes public this week.

Will Airbnb be a winning I.P.O.? It depends. It definitely will be for the venture capital firm Sequoia, which bet on Airbnb early. And it’s certainly faring better than people expected when travel froze early this year. But no one can confidently predict whether its share price will shoot to the moon like Zoom’s has since its 2019 I.P.O. or will plunge as Lyft’s did after it went public.

That’s the lesson. Cool companies don’t always make good investments. The people screaming on Robinhood about their splurge on a hot I.P.O. may not know what they’re talking about.

  • Goldman Sachs has reached a deal to buy out the minority partner in its Chinese securities joint venture, which could make it the first global bank to assume full ownership of its securities business in mainland China since the Communist Party took control of foreign-owned enterprises in the country in the 1950s. In a memo to employees on Tuesday, the Wall Street bank said it had reached a definitive agreement to buy a 49 percent stake in Goldman Sachs Gao Hua still held by its local partner, Beijing Gao Hua Securities. Goldman Sachs did not disclose a price for the transaction.

  • Rashida Jones, a senior vice president for news at MSNBC and NBC News, will become the first Black woman to take charge of a major television news network. Her promotion, announced by Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, is another big shake-up in the network’s management ranks. She will succeed Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president whose left-leaning shows yielded big ratings in the Trump years and minted media brands like “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe,” will depart on Feb. 1 after a 12-year tenure, the network said on Monday.

  • The Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Group plans to cut roughly 6,000 jobs as it grapples with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In a securities filing in Tokyo on Monday, Dentsu laid out details of its restructuring strategy, which will cost 88 billion yen (about $850 million) to carry out over two years and includes trimming its 48,000-person international work force by 12.5 percent. The timeline will vary by location, the company said.

By: Ella Koeze·Source: Refinitiv

  • Stocks were unsteady on Tuesday, as the spread of coronavirus cases and restrictions on people’s movement and businesses outweighed optimism about the rollout of a vaccine.

  • The S&P 500 rose about a quarter of a percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 and Britain’s FTSE 100 also recouped small losses and were slightly higher.

  • In the United States, rising numbers of virus cases has led California to impose new stay-at-home orders in large swathes of the state. In New York, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus is rising and could lead to another ban on indoor dining.

  • In Europe, countries are struggling to emerge from a second wave of the pandemic. The infection rate in France is threatening plans to ease restrictions before the holidays, and in Greece, the lockdown was extended until early January.

  • But on a brighter note, Britain on Tuesday started a mass vaccination campaign, delivering the first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. “There is finally some clear light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” James Pomeroy, an economist at HSBC, wrote in a note to clients. “And that cheer should be seen in some of the economic data in the coming year too.”

  • Tesla said on Tuesday it would sell as much as $5 billion in shares, its third return to markets in 10 months, and use the money for more investments including factory construction. Tesla’s shares ended the day up more than a percent. This year, the electric carmaker’s shares have risen about 670 percent, and later this month, the company will join the S&P 500.