The Hill's 12:30 Report: Focus shifts to next stimulus package

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.



About those $1,000 checks to Americans:

In an interview this morning on Fox Business, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: California backtracks on reopening as cases soar nationwide; SoapBox CEO David Simnick says nimble firms can work around supply chain chokepoints to access supplies for sanitizers and hygienic materials The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Supreme Court allows federal executions in 2 a.m. decision Goldman Sachs: More than 80 percent of small firms that got PPP loans say they will run out of money by August MORE said Americans could receive two $1,000 checks from the government within nine weeks.

In Mnuchin's words: This is an unprecedented situation, where for good reason the government has instructed major parts of the economy to close down so that we can win this fight against this virus ...  While we're doing that, we understand there are impacts on hard-working Americans, and the president is determined to support them."

Mnuchin also said: "As soon as Congress passes this we'd get this out in three weeks, and then six weeks later, if the president still has a national emergency, we'll deliver another $3,000." 

Watch Mnuchin on Fox Business:



Trump on two coronavirus drugs that are being tested: "I think it's going to be very promising. It could be a game changer. And maybe not. Based on what I see, it could be a game changer. They're very powerful."

Trump called it a war: "It's a medical war.  We have to win this war."

Livestream of the Coronavirus Task Force's daily press briefing:


It's Thursday -- today is the first day of spring! I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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No new coronavirus cases today in China: Via CNN, "China has reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began, marking a major turning point in the global battle to contain Covid-19."

The U.S. is preparing to buy 30 million barrels of oil: "The Department of Energy (DOE) announced Thursday it would conduct the sales to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), fulfilling a pledge by President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE to offer assistance to the oil industry as prices plummet with the twin threats of the coronavirus and a trade war between Saudi Arabia and Russia."



Unemployment claims spike:

Via The Hill's Sylvan Lane, "the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits soared last week as businesses shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic began laying off workers."

The numbers: "Weekly claims for unemployment insurance rose to 281,000 between March 8 and 14, spiking 70,000 from the 211,000 applications for jobless benefits filed between March 1 and 7."  


Raise your hand if you forgot Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE was still running:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination this morning.

Did she endorse?: Yes, she announced that she is supporting former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign slams Trump's Rose Garden event as 'sad affair' New shutdowns add to Trump woes CNN cuts away from Trump's 'campaign-type' Rose Garden speech MORE.

In her words: "I'm suspending my presidential campaign and offering my full support to Vice President Joe Biden."

Was this surprising?: No. Her campaign failed to gain traction and was overshadowed by Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden aspires to become America's auto-pen president Progressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law MORE (I-Vt.).

Watch her announcement:  



Signed, sealed, delivered:

Last night, President Trump signed an emergency aid bill to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus.

What's in this bill?: Paid leave benefits, unemployment benefits and free virus testing

As a quick reminder: "The bipartisan bill, which is the product of days of negotiations last week between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUS praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign Voter fraud charges filed against GOP Rep. Steve Watkins Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (D-Calif.), is the second such legislative package passed by Congress to address the COVID-19 outbreak." 


Welp, this isn't great for U.S.-China relations:

Via The Hill's Olivia Beavers, "President Trump is blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic threatening lives and the economy in the United States, further testing a relationship with Beijing already stressed by a trade war."

For example: President Trump began his press briefing yesterday by calling it a "Chinese virus." 

What this means for the U.S.-China relationship:



Via The Hill's Niall Stanage, "On Wednesday morning, as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 100, Trump blasted 'Sleepy Joe Biden' on Twitter, accused the Democratic National Committee of seeking to hobble Biden's main rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and complained yet again that the 'Fake News' media was out to get him."

And then: "Later, at a White House press briefing, Trump defended his use of the term 'Chinese Virus' to refer to the coronavirus, despite criticism from some quarters that the term is racist." 




Who would get the direct payments?:

Senate Republicans are considering setting a limit on who can receive direct payments for a coronavirus stimulus.

The threshold: $75,000 for individuals or $150,000 for couples 

Where that threshold came from -- 2008: "Republican senators say they want to model direct payments on the stimulus checks former President George W. Bush sent out in 2008 during the financial crisis. Twelve years ago, the rebates were reduced for individual incomes above $75,000 and joint incomes above $150,000." 


Pelosi wants Trump to use his war powers: 

This morning, Speaker Pelosi called on President Trump to use the emergency war powers that he invoked yesterday.

Why: To accelerate production of medical supplies.

Back story: "Trump on Wednesday had invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act -- an exceedingly rare step for a president -- which empowers the government to mobilize private industry to ramp up production in the name of national security … Yet in a subsequent tweet Wednesday evening, Trump suggested that while he's invoked the Defense Production Act, he has no immediate plans to use it." 



I will keep finding ways to make you smile. I promise!

Bostonians sang "Sweet Caroline" out their windows: The video is great. Watch:

I love this!: Some people have started putting their Christmas lights back up to cheer people up.

Jimmy Fallon hosted his show from home, starring his youngest daughter: The result is pretty funny. Watch:

^ Fallon then interviewed "Hamilton" creator Lin Manuel Miranda on his next at-home episode: It's equally as good. Here's the video:

Does anyone who is homeschooling their kids this week agree?: Television producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted, "Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year.  Or a week." This tweet has more than 600,000 likes so far.

In your free time -- you can watch Broadway musicals and plays online for free: Here's how:


This teacher is the MVP -- Omg, this is incredible.

You must watch past the first minute. Trust me. 




Oh myyy: 

This video has 2.6 million views so far.




The Senate is in. The House is out. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C.

9 a.m. EDT: Vice President Pence led a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting in the Situation Room.

Noon: The Senate met. The Senate's full schedule today:

12:15 p.m. EDT: President Trump receives an intelligence briefing.



11 a.m. EDT: The White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press briefing. Livestream:

2 p.m. EDT: President Trump participates in a teleconference with governors at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters. Livestream:



Today is National Chocolate Caramel Day.


I just thought you should know...:

The "Friends" reunion will be delayed because of the coronavirus. Why: It was set to be filmed on March 23 and 24.


And to brighten your day of social distancing, here's a baby snuggling with a goldendoodle. Who needs teddy bears when you have this dog?: