WASHINGTON — One of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s constituents got right to the point last week when the Nebraska Republican held a tele-town hall for Bellevue residents to discuss the coronavirus and school openings.
Much remains unknown about this deadly virus, one woman said, and it could pose serious risks to children in the classroom.
“So my concern is how can you feel good about opening up the schools knowing all these people are suffering and dying?” she asked.
Joining the congressman on the call was Bellevue Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Rippe. He said their plan for reopening is rooted in guidance from public health experts.
“Obviously our goal is to keep everybody safe,” Rippe said.
The extent to which students will be back in classrooms will be determined by the status of the outbreak locally. And if it is spreading out of control, schools can go to all remote learning.
But Rippe said 80% of their families want to come back to school, and he noted that kids stuck at home are potentially missing out on nutrition, emotional connections and social support.
“Our belief is the best place for students is to be in school,” Rippe said.
In Washington, meanwhile, talks over another major pandemic relief bill have stalled as lawmakers left town with no deal in sight.
Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, released a statement taking issue with Senate Republicans for not passing anything to deal with expiring federal unemployment benefits.
“But above all, I’m extremely disappointed that as early as Wednesday, the White House admitted that millions of Americans would have to accept that the bipartisan momentum that we had used to respond to this pandemic in March was no longer there to find a solution for our constituents,” Axne said. “Americans deserve better from their leaders.”
Last week brought the sad news that Herman Cain had died, the latest high-profile victim of the pandemic. The former Republican presidential candidate was known to Omahans as the person who helped revitalize Godfather’s Pizza.
In other news:
Sasse says no withdrawal
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement condemning the Trump administration’s talk of withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops from Germany. U.S. troops stationed around the world are intended to counter countries such as China and Russia, he said.
“The President’s lack of strategic understanding of this issue increases our response time and hinders the important deterrent work our servicemen and women are doing,” Sasse said. “Maintaining forward presence is cheaper for our taxpayers and safer for our troops. Chairman Xi and Vladimir Putin are reckless — and this withdrawal will only embolden them. We should be leading our allies against China and Russia, not abandoning them. Withdrawal is weak.”
Shooting down Election Delay
President Donald Trump continues to suggest that voting by mail will cause issues in the upcoming presidential contest and has floated the extraordinary measure of postponing the election.
But even his fellow Republicans were dismissing any kind of election delay.
Most GOP lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa shot down the notion and pointed out that the process for electing a president is established in both the Constitution and federal law.
Hear from Bacon
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., is hosting his third tele-town hall of the year for those in the Omaha-based 2nd District that he represents.
Bacon said he considered hosting an in-person event, but the telephone format seemed better so that those most vulnerable to COVID-19 aren’t disadvantaged.
“This option allows anyone to present questions or concerns from the safety of their home or business,” Bacon said in announcing the event, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday.
The dial-in number is 855-920-0558.
Bacon cautioned that the timing could change if House members are called back to Washington early for votes.
Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.