The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden wins big; will Bernie drop out?
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Former Vice President Joe Biden scored a clean sweep of three key primary contests on Tuesday night and continued to distance himself from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the delegate race as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows the push for the Democratic nomination.
Biden handily won primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday night, further extending his lead over Sanders, whose path to the nomination has become microscopic. Biden’s wins also give him his 19th win in 24 state primaries and caucuses dating back to the South Carolina win that swung the entire primary. In a speech to supporters, the former vice president spoke directly to Sanders’s supporters and made an appeal to them as he moved closer to becoming the party’s standard-bearer (The Hill).
“Our campaign has had a very good night. We’ve moved closer to securing the Democratic nomination for president, and we’re doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November,” Biden said.
“Sen. Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision for the need to provide affordable health care for all Americans, reduce income inequity that has risen so drastically, to tackling the existential threat of our time, climate change,” he continued.
According to the latest count, Biden leads with 1,147 delegates, while Sanders trails with 861. On Tuesday night alone, the former VP racked up 249 to only 116 for the Vermont senator.
The Hill: Biden on cusp of insurmountable lead after sweeping three states.
The New York Times: Biden sweeps three states and takes commanding lead, as virus reshapes American politics.
Jonathan Easley, The Hill: Five takeaways from Tuesday’s primary night.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Biden subdues Sanders amid virus upheaval.
The three contests also took place amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has made the primary contest between the two Democratic heavyweights a relative footnote in a matter of weeks. Late Monday night, the Ohio primary was effectively postponed after the state’s director of health declared a “health emergency” to stop the race only hours before the polls were set to open.
That last-minute development happened after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance limiting gatherings to 50 people for the next eight weeks. The White House updated that recommendation on Monday, saying that no more than 10 individuals should be in a group at any one time.
States with upcoming primaries have followed Ohio’s lead and are pushing back their contests. Maryland delayed it’s primary from April 28 until June 2, while other states are looking into taking similar actions (The Hill).
The Hill: Democratic National Committee calls on states not to postpone primaries.
The Hill: How campaigns are adapting to coronavirus.
Instead of holding an event to celebrate his wins, Biden spoke to supporters and viewers via a livestream from his home in Wilmington, Del., pointing to the CDC’s latest guidelines, and dedicated most of his remarks to the ongoing pandemic. He thanked state officials and poll workers for their efforts in Tuesday’s primaries before discussing his victories.
“Tackling this pandemic is a national emergency akin to fighting a war,” Biden said. “Yes, this is a moment where we need our leaders to lead. But it is also a moment where the choices and decisions we make as individuals.”
Earlier in the evening and shortly after the polls closed in Florida, Sanders spoke to supporters not about the pending results but instead about the coronavirus. The Vermont Independent called for Medicare to pick up all out-of-pocket health care costs, backs $2,000-per-month payments to every U.S. household and proposed waivers of all student loan payments during the crisis.
Given the margin of his deficit, questions continued to swirl around how long Sanders would remain in the race. Unlike after last week’s primaries, Sanders does not have another debate on the calendar to put himself in front of millions of voters, and his ability to message to the masses has been effectively choked due to the virus.
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine: Why is Bernie Sanders still running for president?
Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post: Sanders faces growing pressure to withdraw from presidential race.
The Associated Press: Biden chips away at Sanders’s coalition.
Politico: How Biden flips Arizona.
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS & OFFICIAL WASHINGTON: President Trump on Tuesday said his administration wants to “go big” to enact a stimulus measure of at least $1 trillion and send federal checks to Americans this month, prop up the domestic airline and hotel industries and buoy small businesses as the United States wrestles with COVID-19.
With astonishing speed, the Trump administration broadened its initial vision of what the U.S. economy, financial markets, workers and businesses will need to survive the virus-driven lifestyle changes and health hazards they’ll face for months.
The Associated Press: Trump’s economic rescue package could approach $1 trillion.
Late on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that a federal plan dated on Friday warned policymakers that the coronavirus pandemic could last “18 months or longer,” with “multiple waves.” The reference to 18 months may correspond with expert estimates that a COVID-19 vaccine will take that long to develop and test for use by the public.
The warnings about deadly waves of viral infection and fatalities, shortages and global disruptions echo the lessons of the 1918 influenza crisis, which Trump raised with reporters. “That was an incredible pandemic like we haven’t seen,” he noted Tuesday morning. “They were unbelievable numbers.”
In the United States, the 1918 flu pandemic, the worst in history, began in March in Kansas and moved east. By the time the virus burned itself out in the summer of 1919, there were three distinct waves of contagion, according to a detailed discussion of the period published by the CDC. The second wave was the most lethal. Around the world, the so-called “Spanish flu” killed at least 50 million people.
COVID-19, which first appeared in humans in late November or December in China, has infected at least 198,179 people globally and killed 7,954 of them, according to the latest information.
The Federal Reserve, which shares the public health community’s dire concerns about the coronavirus, said on Tuesday that it would start making loans to American corporations to help calm short-term debt markets that have faced strains this month as the tumult continues (The Wall Street Journal).
Wall Street rallied on the news of Trump’s fiscal commitments, although lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Tuesday signaled wariness about what would be the largest legislative effort in history to prop up the U.S. economy during a crisis.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the impact from COVID-19 “is worse than 9/11.” To grab senators’ attention, he warned that U.S. unemployment could rocket from the current 3.5 percent to 20 percent, a level of joblessness not seen since the Great Depression (Bloomberg News).
The Washington Post: Mnuchin: “We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately.”
But lawmakers recall the partisan struggles and political blowback accompanying an $800 billion stimulus measure adopted after the 2008 financial crisis. Federal bailouts for big banks and payouts to the auto industry fueled voter resentment, especially tied to executive bonuses supported by taxpayer funds and relatively scant federal help for 2.6 million workers who lost their jobs.
Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers — faced with an unprecedented national emergency that combines the contagion of a deadly virus with days of financial market panic — signaled a theoretical willingness to send federal checks of $1,000 to Americans as quickly as possible to bolster consumption and help pay bills while the population remains rooted in relative isolation at home, likely for months.
The Hill: GOP senators, as well as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), are rolling out their own proposals.
The president on Tuesday said a mandatory national quarantine is not under consideration right now but noted that additional travel restrictions are “possible.”
“You can do a national lockdown, but we hope we don’t need that,” he told reporters at the White House.
Trump said his message to Americans who are now teleworking, minding children while schools are closed and struggling not to congregate is “enjoy your living room.” The goal, he repeated, is to reduce the number of COVID-19 fatalities.
“If we need more steps, we’ll take them,” he said. “Hopefully, we have all made the right moves.”
The Hill: The Senate will pass without changes a separate coronavirus assistance bill approved by the House last week. The timing is in flux.
The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to reach a consensus among GOP senators before talking with Democrats about the Trump-proposed stimulus measure.
The Hill: Trump administration officials received some pushback from Republicans on Tuesday regarding the “go big” strategy. GOP senators worry about distributing direct cash payments to Americans as well as providing tens of billions of dollars in economic assistance to the ailing airline industry.
The Hill: Lawmakers responded enthusiastically to the Treasury Department announcement on Tuesday that taxpayers will have some leeway, if needed, if they can’t meet the April 15 IRS tax filing deadline.
The Wall Street Journal: Stocks rose sharply on Tuesday in volatile trading.
CORONAVIRUS & STATES: New York City is weighing whether to issue a shelter-in-place order as the largest U.S. city looks to control the spread of the coronavirus while the number of confirmed cases continues to rise in the region.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned city residents on Tuesday afternoon to prepare for a possible directive in the next 48 hours, saying it was “definitely a possibility” during a press conference.
“We are certainly going to have thousands of cases next week,” de Blasio said. “It is not that long before we hit 10,000 cases. That is a true statement.”
De Blasio’s remarks came a day after a similar order was handed down in seven Bay Area counties, including San Francisco, forcing nearly 7 million individuals to stay at home except for essential needs. He repeated his warning late Tuesday night, telling MSNBC that a shelter-in-place order “has to be considered” as the numbers rise in the state.
However, resistance to de Blasio’s potential action came from Albany, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) indicating that any such order would “require state action” and that no shelter-in-place order is being considered at this time.
“There’s not going to be any quarantine where we contain people within an area, or we block people from an area,” Cuomo told NY1. “Individual mobility is what we’re all about. There’s not going to be any you-have-to-stay-in-your-house rule.”
The governor continued to push back against de Blasio’s warnings later in the day, arguing that it would risk spreading the virus outside the city even further.
As of late Tuesday night, more than 1,374 people in New York state had tested positive for COVID-19 statewide. De Blasio told MSNBC that the figure in New York City rose from 644 to 923 from earlier in the day, with an increase in testing the main reason for the jump. (The New York Times).
According to The New York Times, one case is a woman in her 50s who shared a room with eight other women in a city homeless shelter. Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Social Services, said that the roommates were quarantined in a building the city set up for that exact purpose and are being monitored for symptoms.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Cities worry about homeless populations as coronavirus surges.
The coronavirus officially hit all 50 states on Tuesday when the first confirmed case was announced in West Virginia, the final state to not report a positive case. Gov. Jim Justice (R) revealed that the first confirmed case is an individual who lives on the Eastern Panhandle.
“We knew it was coming,” Justice said. “We’ve prepared for this, and we shouldn’t panic. We should be concerned. We should be cautious, but we should not panic.”
In response, Justice shuttered all restaurants, bars — allowing for take out orders only — and casinos. Prior to the announcement of the positive case, Charleston, W.Va., the state capital, declared a state of emergency due to the virus.
According to the latest statistics, there are 6,496 confirmed cases across the U.S. and the death toll reached 110 (The Hill). 17 individuals have recovered.
Elsewhere, officials in New Jersey, Washington and Texas say the federal government has sent them a fraction of the masks, gowns and ventilators they asked for from the national stockpile of medical supplies, according to The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann. Hospitals and states are having difficulty getting enough masks and equipment from their normal suppliers because many medical items are made — and are staying — in China.
Administration officials on Tuesday during a White House briefing urged construction companies to donate their supplies of N95 respirator masks to local hospitals and to stop ordering them for their employees.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Tuesday that state governments are searching for new stockpiles of medical supplies they need to combat the spread of the coronavirus, acknowledging that the federal response to the pandemic has fallen short.
In an interview with The Hill’s Reid Wilson, Hogan talked about how the virus has consumed his energy lately and has led him to make the rare step of delegating day-to-day governing authority to his lieutenant governor so that he’s able to focus solely on COVID-19. The move also comes in contrast to the president’s decision to delegate the handling of the virus to Pence.
“I’m directing basically the war on the coronavirus, which is a massive undertaking,” Hogan said. “That’s a 20-hour-a-day job.”
“I sort of did the opposite of what the president did. I think the president made the right decision in delegating authority to Vice President Pence,” Hogan said.
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced nine new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total number to 31. All of the new cases are men, with ages ranging from 23 to 61 (WUSA9).
CNBC: FAA: Tower at Chicago’s Midway airport is closed after “several” employees there test positive for COVID-19.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Taking an extraordinary step, the European Union decided on Tuesday to close borders to most travelers from other countries for 30 days in an effort to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19. Movement within the bloc by citizens of 27 member nations will be permitted (CNBC).
> Group of 20 (G-20): Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it will convene a virtual summit (on an unspecified day next week) to bring together leaders from the G-20 major economies, including the United States, to address the pandemic (Reuters).
> Italy: “It’s like a war,” a doctor near Milan explained to The New York Times’s “The Daily” podcast. Dr. Fabiano Di Marco, 47, a professor at the University of Milan who is also the head of the respiratory unit of the 1,000-bed Hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo, ventured to see his wife and children for the first time since the outbreak on Feb. 21. He described hospital conditions in which his colleagues are falling ill and 20 patients who were sickened by the coronavirus died in a single day in a hospital that transformed five surgical wards and its emergency room to care solely for victims of the contagion. Listen HERE.
> Mexico: Mexican opposition leaders are warning that the country’s government is failing to take the coronavirus crisis seriously. The country’s hands-off approach has already sparked tensions with El Salvador. As critics accuse the Mexican government of underplaying the situation, the number of confirmed infections soared from 53 Sunday to 82 this morning (The Hill).
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Coronavirus unmasks America’s real national security vulnerabilities, by Brig. Gen. Robert S. Spalding (USAF Ret.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2wf3fxJ
The invisible escalation of hate — is political violence in our future? By Peter Coleman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3b7wpOi
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will return Monday after a recess.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and plans to consider the House-passed coronavirus economic relief bill.
The president will speak by conference call in the Oval Office with airline executives at 10 a.m. related to the coronavirus. Trump will hold a quarterly teleconference with members of the Business Roundtable at 10:45 a.m. in the Oval Office. He’ll speak by phone with physicians from the Roosevelt Room at 1:30 p.m. Trump will host a briefing with nurses in the Cabinet Room at 3:30 p.m.
Vice President Pence will lead a meeting of the president’s coronavirus task force at 9 a.m. The vice president will participate in a coronavirus briefing for reporters at 11:30 a.m. in the White House briefing room. Pence will join the president in speaking with doctors by phone and nurses in person this afternoon.
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➔ China vs. U.S.: In an unprecedented move on Tuesday, China announced the expulsion of all U.S. journalists working for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post and will bar them from working in Hong Kong, as well. The announcement, which adds to friction between the world’s two largest economies, came weeks after Trump limited the number of Chinese citizens who can work in the United States for five state-controlled Chinese news organizations (The New York Times).
➔ Jobs & bailouts: Marriott International Inc., which employs 130,000 people worldwide, will begin to shed thousands of workers in reaction to the pandemic, which drastically slashed occupancy rates around the globe (Bloomberg). The domestic hotel industry is seeking $150 billion in federal help. Trump, whose family business includes golf resorts and hotels, met with tourism industry executives in the White House on Tuesday, including executives from Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Best Western and Disney. … The U.S. Travel Association, which was represented at the meeting, predicts that close to 5 million travel-related U.S. jobs will be lost because of the virus. In a report released on Tuesday, the association estimated 4.6 million industry jobs will be eliminated, more than 25 percent of the 15.8 million Americans who work in the sector (The Hill). … U.S. airlines asked the government for nearly $60 billion in federal assistance, U.S. airports want $10 billion in public funds; and public transit authorities seek $13 billion, Politico and the Center for Responsive Politics reported.
➔ How long can coronavirus live on your countertop and in the air? The National Institutes of Health experimented and found that easily transmissible COVID-19 can be infectious all around us for many hours (Reuters). The New England Journal of Medicine report is HERE.
➔ Sports: Kevin Durant and three other Brooklyn Nets players tested positive for coronavirus as it continues to spread among NBA players. “Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine. We’re going to get through this,” Durant told The Athletic. Durant is the highest-profile athlete to contract the virus thus far. … Major League Baseball owners announced that they are donating $30 million ($1 million per owner) to assist ballpark employees who will be affected by the delayed start to the season (ESPN). … In non-coronavirus news, the evil empire is dead (at least the Morning Report thinks and hopes so). Legendary quarterback Tom Brady announced Tuesday morning that he is leaving the New England Patriots with the expectation that he will sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2020 season (ESPN).
And finally … Necessity is the mother of invention, and during a global pandemic, companies and individuals think outside the box.
Here are some examples:
✔ Some stores are experimenting with “senior-only” shopping hours to offer the most at-risk people time and physical space in major stores to buy what they need in a setting with appropriate social distancing (The Washington Post). Public health experts are not all in agreement about the safety of this trend, but White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, an immunologist and expert in HIV/AIDS, applauded the overall idea of such innovations by merchants.
✔ Scholastic is offering free online courses for children as school closures sweep the nation and keep young people indoors. The Scholastic Learn At Home program offers three hours of learning per day with up to four weeks of instruction, accessible on all devices and with no signup (The Hill).
✔ Socializing, working and sequestering at home point up the need for entertainment options in the coronavirus era. Universal Pictures announced it is making in-theater movies available online on the same day — abandoning the “theatrical release window.” Anon-demand rental of a new release for 48 hours costs $19.99, which could be a bargain for some families (Variety).
✔ One enterprising single mom in Norway helped her two children enjoy their birthdays when the coronavirus forced the cancellation of their parties. Appealing on Facebook for birthday greetings for her children, Mona Helgaland, found herself teary eyed when her family received dozens of caring and artistically imaginative greetings from around the world. “It’s important to stay positive and take care of each other and spread love, not just the virus,” she said. “I’m blown away by their kindness” (The Associated Press).
✔ The restaurant industry is adapting as bars and eateries are forced to shut down to prevent coronavirus transmissions in close quarters (The Hill). The industry wants federal help to weather the disappearance of their diners, but many restaurants are also permitted to shift their focus to takeout and delivery options that feed customers with minimal person-to-person contact. Check out what Enchilada Ole is doing in Fort Worth, Texas, (NBC DFW) and what fine-dining Canlis Restaurant in Seattle dreamed up with some all-staff brainstorming (Fast Company).
“[There are] two things that haven’t changed: People need to eat and people need to work,” said restaurant owner Mark Canlis, who transformed his elegant business into three scrappy pop-up delivery options this week with a goal of delivering 1,000 burgers, 400 to 500 bagels and 200 to-go dinners a night.
Canlis has been able to keep all his employees on board for the time being.
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