The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump, Congress agree on coronavirus package?

 

 

 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE and members of his coronavirus task force reassured Americans on Monday that the rapid spread of COVID-19 will require help for families and industry sectors hit hardest by the contagion. The president urged Congress and the private sector to consider temporary payroll tax relief, small business lending and help for targeted business sectors harmed because of the coronavirus. The president mentioned airlines, cruise ships and the hotel industry during brief remarks in the White House briefing room following a meeting with members of his Cabinet and the government’s top public health experts.

 

“The main thing is that we’re taking care of the American people,” Trump said.

 

The New York Times: The president, who has for weeks played down the coronavirus threat and played up the stock market, now faces one of the worst crises since he was sworn in: “There’s panic.”

 

The Hill: Trump pitches tax cut to ease panic.

 

The Hill: Democrats balk at Trump’s payroll tax cut proposal because it would not help families without paychecks, the unemployed or workers in the gig economy.

 

The Washington Post: Trump’s proposals were quickly brushed aside by House, Senate Democrats, who are working on their own plan for possible release this week.

 

The president’s brief appearance followed a record-setting day of fear-fueled meltdown in the financial markets and the astonishing decision by the Italian government to lock down a nation of 60 million people — a decision tantamount to forfeiting an economy while halting public movement in a last-ditch effort to slow a contagion that has killed 463 people there. Italy surpassed South Korea as the country with the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases outside China.

 

The death toll from COVID-19 worldwide this morning is 4,026, and confirmed cases number at least 114,544 in at least 110 countries, according to the latest information.

 

There have been 22 deaths in the United States and 755 confirmed cases following weeks of efforts to ramp up limited testing. It took just 12 or 13 weeks for the highly contagious virus, which first appeared in China in late November or early December, to alter nearly every avenue of social and economic life around the globe. 

 

The president’s apparent endorsement of macro as well as targeted proposed fiscal stimulus measures on Monday was an about-face for the White House and Treasury Department, signaling a new resignation that the spread of COVID-19 as well as immense public fear may be driving an otherwise healthy economy into a deep ditch.

 

Some analysts have urged the administration to lift Trump’s tariffs in an effort to ease supply chain problems in the United States, but the president made no reference to his continued efforts to pressure China, European countries and other nations using tariffs on imported goods.

 

Trump, accompanied by Vice President Pence, who leads the task force, said the administration will meet with lawmakers today to discuss what he described as “very major” and “very dramatic” proposals that could possibly get through Congress swiftly. Lawmakers and Trump already enacted $8.3 billion for federal response to the coronavirus, including to fund research to develop a vaccine. 

 

On Friday, White House national economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE said the administration was weighing ideas to help the vast majority of American workers who have no paid sick leave and to help hourly wage workers who would forfeit paychecks if they stay home for any reason because of the virus. 

 

Kudlow said during an interview with Bloomberg News last week that the administration opposed a payroll tax holiday because it was expensive for the government and too sweeping across a broad spectrum of workers. Kudlow said Trump also preferred executive action over collaboration with Congress. Four days later, much has changed.

 

The Hill: Securities and Exchange Commission becomes the first federal agency to tell employees to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

 

While both parties in Congress say they are willing to take additional legislative action in response to the pathogen, how they do it remains the big question. Senate Republicans are expected to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of emergency loans | House seeks to salvage vote on spending bill | Economists tell lawmakers: Kill the virus to heal the economy Economists spanning spectrum say recovery depends on containing virus Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs MORE and Kudlow at a closed-door lunch, with potential tax relief proposals on the agenda.

 

“The president is committed that whatever support we need to provide to the U.S. economy, we will use all our tools, working very closely with the regulators,” Mnuchin said Monday at the White House. 

 

“The president is 100 percent committed that we will provide whatever tools we need, that the economy will be in very good shape a year from now,” the secretary continued. “This is not like the financial crisis where we don't know the end in sight. This is about providing proper tools and liquidity to get through the next few months.”

 

The Hill: Anxiety over coronavirus grows on Capitol Hill.

 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare House lawmakers reach deal to avert shutdown Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE (D-Calif.) reiterated a Democratic plan in a letter to colleagues and rattled off a list of actions they will seek to include in any future legislation. Among those priorities are paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expansion of food stamps and free testing for the virus. 

 

House Democrats are slated to hear from the House Sergeant at Arms, the attending physician and the chief administrative officer on Tuesday morning to discuss safeguards for lawmakers. Pelosi also insisted to reporters that the Capitol will not be shut down, saying there’s “no reason to do so” at this time (Politico).

 

 

 

 

The Speaker’s remarks came as news emerged that three more members of Congress are self-quarantining: Reps. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTrump, Biden tied in Georgia: poll Loeffler paints herself as 'more conservative than Attila the Hun' in new campaign ad Vulnerable GOP incumbents embrace filling Supreme Court seat this year MORE (R-Ga.), Julia BrownleyJulia Andrews BrownleyHouse Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus Assistant House Speaker self-quarantines out of 'abundance of caution' Actor Orlando Bloom to self-quarantine MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLara Trump campaigns with far-right activist candidate Laura Loomer in Florida House to vote on removing cannabis from list of controlled substances The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from GOP convention night 1 MORE (R-Fla.).

 

Collins and Gaetz are both under scrutiny as they each had interactions with the president in recent days. Collins joined the president on Friday when the president visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and was spotted shaking his hand. 

 

Gaetz, who was spotted on the House floor last week mockingly wearing a gas mask, had contact with the individual who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and subsequently tested positive for the virus. The Florida lawmaker found out he had contact with the person on Monday while aboard Air Force One.

 

The White House announced late Monday that Trump has not been tested for the virus. Pence told reporters he had not been tested, either. Both have traveled extensively in the past few weeks and met with large groups (The Hill). 

 

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks House Democrats mull delay on spending bill vote Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE (R-N.C.), the incoming White House chief of staff, announced that while he tested negative for COVID-19, he has quarantined himself after potentially coming into contact with the CPAC attendee (The Hill). 

 

The Washington Post: “Forget about rope lines”: Secret Service faces unique challenge of protecting Trump from coronavirus exposure.

 

The administration is meeting with Wall Street firms and banks on Wednesday to talk about trying to counter the economic hit and public anxiety (The Washington Post).

 

Pence said the public today can find basic self-help ideas, focused on enhanced safety at home, work and school, by going online at Coronavirus.gov.

 

The government today is releasing new proposals for cruise lines to deal with infections, a problem experienced by vacationers in Asia and aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in Oakland on Monday with 21 cases of COVID-19 infection aboard. The bulk of the passengers are to be transferred to four U.S. military bases for temporary quarantine and others will be flown home to Canada and the United Kingdom aboard chartered planes, if they’re from those countries.

 

At least 2.1 million COVID-19 tests are now available, will be shipped or are waiting to be ordered, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. But the government is currently unable to say how many people in the United States have been tested for the coronavirus because the federal and private-sector systems that record test results are not integrated.

 

“By the end of this week, [we] expect to be able to be producing up to 4 million tests per week in the United States. And that is on top of what the private commercial entities … are getting out, [resulting in] a very much more seamless patient experience,” Azar said.

 

Politico: “There are going to be cases”: Coronavirus gets real for an aging Senate.

 

Reuters: Stocks savaged, Italy on lockdown, prisons in uproar as coronavirus spreads.

 

The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE (R-Ky.): “This is not a time for fear.” 

 

The Washington Post: Known coronavirus infections in D.C., Maryland and Virginia climb to 16 as Washington’s mayor asks hundreds of D.C. churchgoers to voluntarily stay home in case they contracted the virus from a pastor.

 

Science magazine: Research, commentary and updates about COVID-19.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

COVID-19 & ECONOMY: Staggering Wall Street losses on Monday, including a 7.8 percent freefall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, raised new fears that a recession is on the horizon, or perhaps already arrived. The drop was so sharp that it triggered the first automatic halt in trading in more than two decades as stocks took their worst one-day beating since the financial crisis of 2008 (The Associated Press).

 

Reuters: Oil prices tumbled by as much as a third after Saudi Arabia launched a price war with Russia, sending investors already spooked by the coronavirus outbreak fleeing for the safety of bonds and the Japanese yen.

 

The Hill: Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown. 

 

CNBC: The Federal Reserve moved Monday to inject liquidity into banks to guard against short-term market pressure. But analysts predict the central bank will have to act more assertively, perhaps this week. 

 

The Wall Street Journal: Investors rushed into the least-risky harbors they could find, signaling fears that the U.S. economy is slipping into a storm from which it will be hard to escape.

 

The New York Times: Around the world, fears of coronavirus transmission mean cancellations of events, gatherings and entertainment plans. 

 

Santa Clara County announced Tuesday night that gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned, putting in the status of three San Jose Sharks hockey games in doubt, along with the NCAA women's basketball tournament at Stanford University and one Major League Soccer match. The ban goes into effect at midnight tonight (ESPN). 

 

Yahoo! Sports: NBA and MLB join NHL in closing locker rooms to media amid coronavirus fears.

 

 

 

 

***

 

COVID-19 & INTERNATIONAL: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expanded a regional lockdown to include his entire country on Monday, ordering the extraordinary action to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak beyond Europe’s epicenter in Northern Italy. 

 

The order applies to roughly 60 million Italians as they are now unable to move around, with exceptions for travel to work and emergencies. It also bans public gatherings of all kinds, including sporting events. Serie A soccer matches have been suspended until April 3. 

 

"The whole of Italy will become a protected zone," Conte said in an address to the nation. "We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now.”

 

The New York Times: Italy expands restrictions to cover the entire country. Beginning today, permission is necessary for Italians to move around the country for reasons of work, health or extenuating circumstances.

 

The Associated Press: President Xi Jinping of China today visited Wuhan, the virus epicenter in Hubei Province. In mainland China, almost three-fourths of its more than 80,000 patients have recovered.

 

The World Health Organization on Monday said the global threat of a COVID-19 pandemic — a designation the organization has been reluctant to use — is “very real” (CNBC). WHO said on Monday that people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks and require hospitalization.

 

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE announced that the nation will quarantine all individuals entering the country from overseas for 14 days. Netanyahu’s call comes ahead of an intense travel period for many in the country as Easter and Passover are about a month away.

 

Ireland also canceled St. Patrick’s Day parades across the country in a bid to staunch the virus’s spread. The annual parade in Dublin usually attracts close to 1 million people (The Associated Press).

 

The Associated Press: Paris’s Saint-Germain-Borussia Dortmund game to be played without fans because of the virus.

 

 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Bernie Sanders warns of 'nightmare scenario' if Trump refuses election results Harris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE (I-Vt.) will face off in six contests tonight with 352 delegates up for grabs as the Vermont senator looks to reverse his fortunes following an underwhelming Super Tuesday performance.

 

Headlining tonight’s slate of primaries (and one caucus) is Michigan, a key battleground state where Sanders defeated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Poll: 51 percent of voters want to abolish the electoral college MORE four years ago in an upset. Since Super Tuesday, Sanders has maintained that Michigan and its 125 delegates are his top priority.

 

However, he is facing a steeper climb this time around as he attempts to blunt Biden’s momentum after the former VP won 10 of 14 states last Tuesday, including surprise wins in Texas and Massachusetts in the wake of a series of key endorsements. According to two polls released Monday, Biden leads Sanders by 24 points and 15 points, respectively. 

 

Those endorsements continued to roll out on Monday as Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-N.J.) announced his support for the former vice president, adding to the count of former 2020 rivals to back his bid. His endorsement came a day after Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisButtigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice First presidential debate to cover coronavirus, Supreme Court Harris joins women's voter mobilization event also featuring Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda MORE (D-Calif.) threw her support behind Biden. The two Democratic senators appeared on the stump alongside Biden at a campaign rally on Monday night in Detroit. 

 

Outside of Michigan, the other states that will hold contests tonight are Washington (89 delegates), Missouri (68), Mississippi (36), Idaho (20) and North Dakota (14). 

 

As Jonathan Easley writes, Biden leads Sanders by roughly 90 delegates. While it’s not an insurmountable difference for Sanders to overcome, the proportional allocation will make it difficult for him to come back from if he falls too far behind. Adding to the problems, the map is favorable for the former vice president in the coming weeks as Florida and Georgia will vote on March 17 and March 24, respectively. Sanders will have the chance to make his case before those contests on Sunday in the next Democratic debate in Phoenix. 

 

The Hill: DNC says “no plans to cancel” debate amid coronavirus fears.

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: What happened to Bernie Sanders?

 

Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine: Michigan was once Bernie’s resurrection. Now it could be his burial.

 

 

 

 

With the Democratic primary now a race between Biden and Sanders, Democratic donors are coming off the bench to boost the former vice president, according to The Hill’s Amie Parnes

 

In interviews, donors and fundraisers said their support of Biden will give him a major advantage over Sanders, who raised more than $46 million in February, an impressive haul. But Biden’s campaign announced they’ve raised $22 million since their big win on Super Tuesday and donors expect him to have his best quarter yet. 

 

“It’s going to be day and night,” one fundraiser predicted. “Everyone always said Biden’s a poor fundraiser but they ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

The Hill: Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Calif.) calls on 2020 candidates to stop holding big public events amid coronavirus fears.

 

The Washington Post: The new Biden: Shorter speeches (and less time for gaffes).

 

The Hill: Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Pence seeks to boost Daines in critical Montana Senate race MORE (D) announces run for Senate seat.



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

Government alone cannot protect us from epidemics, by Brock Long, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IwPsFh 

 

That 2008 economic feeling, by Desmond Lachman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2vQkt4c 



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m.

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the American Energy Innovation Act.

 

The president will present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Army Gen. Jack Keane, 77, who is a Fox News analyst at 4:30 p.m. Keane is a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, five Legions of Merit and other awards (Fox News). Trump will hold a news conference about the coronavirus and proposed new responses with Congress.

 

Vice President Pence will discuss with lawmakers possible new legislative and executive responses to address the U.S. spread of COVID-19 and lead a meeting of the president’s task force focused on the public health emergency.  

 

Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections. 

 

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ELSEWHERE

Tech: Twitter reached an investment deal with Silver Lake and Elliott Management that will keep company CEO Jack Dorsey in place, the company announced on Monday. Twitter lags behind Facebook and Google when comparing user growth and advertising revenue, which concerns Twitter investors. Dorsey left and then in 2015 returned to Twitter after starting payments company Square, which commands half his time. His role at Twitter going forward has been the subject of recent conjecture (The Associated Press).

 

Supreme Court: Justices agreed on Monday to hear a Mississippi case that turns on whether it is a violation of the Constitution to sentence juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole absent a determination that a defendant is incapable of rehabilitation (The Hill).

 

Costly traffic: Commuters worldwide who sit in snarls of traffic lose billions of dollars a year. The congestion costs Washington, D.C., drivers an estimated $1,761 annually while they eat up an average of 124 hours each year stuck in traffic jams, according to a new report (The Washington Post).

 

➔ Patient cured of HIV speaks: A man known to be cured of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been identified for a year as the “London patient.” He’s only the second person to have been infected and then freed from the virus, following the case of the “Berlin patient” in 2007. Now he’s speaking out. Adam Castillejo, who contracted HIV when he was 23, is 40, and his medical odyssey is filled with twists and innovation. “I want to be an ambassador of hope” (The New York Times). 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s been a dispute in music and the courts for years, and it may have come closer this week to a conclusion. Did Led Zeppelin’s 1971 mega-hit “Stairway to Heaven” violate the copyright of the 1968 song “Taurus”? A federal appeals court on Monday restored a jury verdict that found “Stairway to Heaven” was not stolen. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco handed the major win to guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant and dealt a blow to the estate of Randy Wolfe of the band Spirit (The Associated Press).

 

“And it's whispered that soon, If we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason…”