The Hill's Morning Report — $1,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort

The Hill's Morning Report — $1,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding MORE (R-Ky.) unveiled an expansive economic relief package on Thursday as Congress considers a third legislative measure in an effort to combat the coronavirus crisis that is gripping the nation and could plunge the country into recession.

McConnell’s package, a 247-page bill, was released after consultations with Senate Republicans and is centered around direct cash payments to families, payments to small businesses, loans to industries decimated by the virus, and increased funding for the healthcare industry. Talks between the GOP and Senate Democrats are expected to start today; a bill needs 60 votes and bipartisan support to move forward. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE is on board. 

As Jordain Carney reports, most of the stimulus for families would come in payments of $1,200 for individuals ($2,400 per married couple) who make up to $75,000, with an additional $500 payment for every child. The checks would be smaller for those earning between $75,000 and $99,000. Those earning more than $99,000 would be ineligible.  

For the poor and those without federal income tax liability, the benefits would be smaller. A minimum payment for those individuals is $600, according to the proposal. Those provisions attracted GOP critics, including Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski emails Josh Hawley an F-bomb Overnight Defense: House Dems offer M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump's border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility  MORE (R-Mo.), who said families who don’t earn enough to pay taxes should not be shut out of the federal stimulus.

“Relief to families in this emergency shouldn’t be regressive. Lower-income families shouldn’t be penalized,” Hawley tweeted

Additionally, the legislation includes $208 billion in loans for industries impacted by the coronavirus. The measure includes up to $50 billion for airlines, $8 billion for cargo air carriers and $150 billion for "other eligible entities,” but Republicans were quick to press that the funding is intended to be loaned and repaid. 

“Let’s be crystal clear about what we are and are not doing here. We are not bailing out the airlines or other industries – period,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate panel to vote on controversial Trump Fed pick Shelton Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending MORE (R-Ala.) said. 

McConnell’s proposal also includes $300 billion for small businesses. The loans are structured so that they would be forgiven if the businesses maintain their payrolls. The funding can also be used by businesses to cover paid sick leave and mortgage payments. 

The bill would also delay the filing deadline for 2019 taxes, pushing it back from April 15 until July 15. 

The Hill: Senate coronavirus rescue bill would suspend student loan payments for up to six months.

Reuters: Trump says he would support the government taking stakes in certain companies helped by the rescue legislation.

The Hill: Senate GOP plan provides massive tax-relief, loans for business. 

Negotiations for Republicans will be led by McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China MORE and White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE.

Immediately, some of the GOP proposals faced opposition from top Democrats, especially the billions in loans to the airline industry and others. Democrats have demanded that any firms receiving funds implement reforms, including a $15 minimum wage and an end to stock buybacks, about which Democrats remain incensed. Trump said he had mixed feelings about the buybacks. McConnell’s bill also says that no “officer or employee” of any firm receiving an emergency loan can be compensated above $425,000 for the next two years (The Washington Post).  

“[T]his crisis grows worse every day. And we believe we need a bold plan, a strong plan. Our plan must put workers, the millions of workers who are adversely affected by this crisis, first,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. 

“This is a crisis like none we have seen. We don't know how long it will last. We don't know how many people will be affected. We do know it is getting worse every day,” he added.

Upshot: It will be extremely challenging to get a bipartisan deal done over the next several days despite the ongoing crisis.  

The Hill: House Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus. 

The New York Times: 5 takeaways from the coronavirus economic relief package.

Peggy Noonan (the columnist has been ill and struggled to be tested for COVID-19): We need time to absorb all this. 

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 stands at 205, and confirmed cases number at least 14,250, according to the latest information.

Ron Klain, former White House Ebola response coordinator under former President Obama, warns that coronavirus infections will “explode” in the next two weeks and will not decrease until May (Yahoo).

Outside of the economic relief proposals, the issue continues to affect the day-to-day for lawmakers as two members of Congress — Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartPelosi asks House chairs to enforce mandatory mask-wearing during hearings House GOP lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report MORE (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — tested positive for the virus. This has led to a new round of chatter about the possibility of lawmakers voting remotely as more members are under self-quarantine, having come in contact with the two members last week and others who have tested positive. Lawmakers say they are worried about their own health (The Hill). 

After staunch opposition to the idea, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAs coronavirus surges, Trump tries to dismantle healthcare for millions Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move MORE (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that she has instructed House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) to present a report on the chamber’s rules regarding voting for members, according to The Hill’s Cristina Marcos. Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ohio) advocated on the floor on Thursday to allow senators to use remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

A reminder: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that no more than 10 people gather at any given time for the next eight weeks. More than 400 House members and nearly 100 senators congregate to vote at any given time.

The Hill: Coronavirus anxiety spreads across Capitol Hill.

Coronavirus & stock sales: The coronavirus fallout extended on Thursday to multiple Senate Republicans who are accused by critics of possible insider trading after receiving briefings from federal officials early this year about the virus. After the briefings, a number of senators sold personal stock holdings. The accusations have the potential to rock Capitol Hill as lawmakers weigh measures drafted to help Americans who are losing their jobs and are harmed by the contagion.  

According to ProPublica, Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Biden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? MORE (R-N.C.) dumped up to $1.7 million in stock holdings less than a week after assuring Americans in an op-ed that the United States was “better prepared than ever” to battle the then-emerging virus. The holdings made up most of his net worth, including stock in hotel chains, which lost significant value as the pandemic developed. 

NPR, which obtained a recording of Burr’s private warnings about the coronavirus to a group of constituents gathered at a luncheon three weeks ago, adds to the controversy. 

Fox News’s Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonTucker Carlson's top writer resigns amid allegations he posted racist, sexist remarks online Crenshaw takes aim at Duckworth's patriotism, accuses her of supporting the 'destruction of America' Duckworth says Trump, Carlson questioning her patriotism to distract from president's 'failure to lead our nation' MORE used part of his Thursday evening show to call on Burr to resign, and Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezGoya CEO dismisses critics for praise of Trump: 'I'm not apologizing' Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs MORE (D-N.Y.) followed suit. 

Later Thursday night, the Daily Beast reported that Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Is Georgia reaching a tipping point? Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Ga.), who faces voters in November, sold off millions in stocks after the Senate Health Committee, on which she serves, hosted an all-senators briefing conducted by administration officials about the coronavirus. In total, Loeffler made 29 transactions between Jan. 24 and mid-February, all but two to sell rather than buy. Loeffler bought between $100,000 and $250,000 of shares in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software. Citrix has seen its stock rise since the purchase and during the pandemic. Loeffler said in a statement that her investments are made by “multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge” and that she did not know about the purchases until three weeks later.  

It is illegal for lawmakers to trade on non-public information acquired via their work, such as briefings for Congress. Burr was one of three senators to vote against the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act when it passed in 2012.

More from the administration: Trump on Thursday tasked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take the reins of the government’s coronavirus response efforts going forward, noting FEMA’s disaster-response experience in the states. Previously, the president assigned the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to take the lead, then assigned Vice President Pence to steer an “all of government” battle against the coronavirus, and subsequently detailed immunologist Deborah Birx from the State Department to the White House to coordinate policymaking. … The State Department is asking Americans to refrain from traveling abroad, and if they are currently abroad, to return to the United States or risk being stuck outside the country because of travel restrictions (The New York Times). … The Food and Drug Administration, led by Stephen Hahn (a physician pictured below with the president), is conducting research on available drugs that may help patients who have contracted COVID-19, including the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral drug remesdivir, which has been used in IV infusions to treat some coronavirus patients on a “compassionate care” basis (The Hill and Reuters). Trump’s enthusiastic promotion of hydroxychloroquine during a press briefing on Thursday sparked a run on sales of the pills, causing a shortage in the United States (Reuters). “Today, there are no proven safe and effective therapies for the coronavirus,Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Thursday. … HHS conducted an exercise for nine months last year to prepare for a fictional respiratory pandemic and uncovered many of the gaps in preparedness now experienced with COVID-19 (The New York Times).

 



LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS & STATES: California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomA nationwide response from an unusual place: City halls California, Florida, Texas report new single day high coronavirus death tolls Watch live: California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds coronavirus press briefing MORE (D) on Thursday instructed all 40 million people in the Golden State to stay home in an unprecedented effort to halt the spread of COVID-19 (Los Angeles Times). In his state, which is one of three with the highest number of coronavirus cases, including New York and Washington, experts project that 56 percent of the population, or 25.5 million people, could be infected over an eight-week period (The Hill). 

To combat the virus nationwide, governors and a number of top state and city officials are begging the president for more federal assistance in the form of essential medical supplies and equipment.

In a teleconference call broadcast over a livestream, governors across the board complained to the president that they do not have enough chemicals (known also as reagents) to process test results, while hospitals don’t have enough masks, gowns and gloves in stock. 

“We were for two weeks requesting reagents for our public health lab from [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], who pushed up to private suppliers, who kept canceling orders on us,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Oglala Sioux Tribe temporarily locks down South Dakota reservation to fight coronavirus South Dakota governor who flew with Trump says she tested negative after coronavirus exposure MORE (R), adding that her state finally got a shipment on Thursday morning. “I don’t want to be less of a priority because we’re a smaller state or less populated.”

Others, including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D)  and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) echoed the remarks, with Ricketts saying that his state’s labs need more reagents “so we can actually process the tests today” (The Hill). 

At municipal levels, New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response Trump calls New York City 'hellhole' after court upholds subpoena from city prosecutors NYPD retirements surge over 400 percent amid tensions with mayor MORE (D) on Thursday criticized the president for not using all his federal powers, including the Defense Production Act that he invoked on Wednesday, to mandate the manufacture of supplies. The mayor maintains that the federal government can alleviate shortages of badly needed supplies in America’s most populous city. De Blasio said New York City needs 3 million N95 respirator masks, 50 million surgical masks, 15,000 ventilators and 25 million each of surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves and face shield masks. New York public health providers are at risk of running out of those supplies in two to three weeks, the mayor added (CNN). 

"I will only say to the president: I don't understand. And I think there are millions and tens of millions of Americans who don't understand what you're doing right now ... You are not using the tools of your office," de Blasio said, adding that Trump is the “Herbert Hoover of his generation.” 

The number of confirmed cases nearly doubled from Wednesday to Thursday, with de Blasio announcing there are more than 3,600 positive cases in the city alone. More than 500 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in New York City as of Wednesday, 169 of them in intensive care units, according to city officials (The New York Times). 

Speaking at a White House briefing on Thursday, Trump said that millions of masks were in production and that the federal government had made efforts to address shortages, though he did not provide details. 

The federal governments aren’t supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping,” Trump said. “You know, we’re not a shipping clerk” (The New York Times).

The Hill: Frustration mounts at Trump's reluctance to use emergency production powers.

 

 

In the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said the nation’s capital has recorded 39 cases of the virus and that nearly 7,600 workers in the city have applied for unemployment benefits since Monday. 

Around the Beltway, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) closed all malls and entertainment venues on Thursday night because of the virus. As of Thursday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maryland rose 88 percent in 48 hours (WTOP).

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) shuttered all businesses that are not considered “life-sustaining” effective Thursday night. 

“Before we can save livelihoods, we have to save lives,” he said.

Previously, Wolf had asked nonessential businesses such as salons, theaters, and entertainment venues to close. Life-sustaining businesses that may continue to operate include gas stations, farms, health care facilities, and transit systems (The Philadelphia Inquirer). 

Clarion Ledger: Mississippi coronavirus: Public schools closed until April 17.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Italy, marking a grim milestone in a nation of 60 million people, surpassed the number of confirmed coronavirus deaths recorded in China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion (The Hill). Italy has reported 41,035 cases of the coronavirus and 3,405 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. China has reported 3,253 fatalities and 81,250 cases of the respiratory virus. 

> China: A new study reports that people who became sick with the coronavirus in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began, had a lower death rate than previously calculated. It’s a finding that gives U.S. public health experts some hope that tough mitigation efforts here, preparations for the contagion and excellent medical care could increase the survival rate in America (The New York Times). 

> United Kingdom: Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised his countrymen to “avoid” London pubs and restaurants because of COVID-19 transmissions, but stopped short of ordering a lockdown that would shutter pubs and restaurants (Eater London). During a news conference on Thursday, the prime minister said if people don’t heed the advice to stop congregating, he is considering stricter measures, such as business closures (Metro).

 

 

> Netherlands: Dutch Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins, 56, resigned on Thursday after collapsing in parliament on Wednesday. He said he became exhausted under the stress of weeks of intense work. Because he was unsure how long he would need to recover during the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to quit to make way for a replacement. The Netherlands has 2,468 confirmed cases of the virus and has reported 77 deaths (Reuters).

 

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

Estimating coronavirus’s U.S. toll, by Douglas Carr, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3b5vttw 

Shut us down already, Mr. President! by Gene Marks, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/33BhLfE

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is in recess and may return to work next week.  

The Senate meets at noon.

The president and members of the coronavirus task force will hold a morning meeting, followed by a press briefing at 11:45 a.m. Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Amazon backtracks, says email asking employees to delete TikTok was sent in error Amazon asks employees to delete TikTok from mobile devices: report MORE at 1:30 p.m. The president will host a conference call at 3:45 p.m. with small business owners to discuss responses to the pandemic.   

Pence will participate in the White House coronavirus task force meeting and subsequent briefing for the news media.

Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors reports on existing home sales in February at 10 a.m. The information from last month is unlikely to capture housing market uncertainty created by the coronavirus. 

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.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

 

ELSEWHERE

Tokyo Summer Olympics: Today, the Olympic flame is scheduled to arrive from Greece in Japan as questions mount about whether the summer games will happen as planned from July 24-Aug. 9. Plan B? (The Associated Press). Trump said on Thursday he discussed the Olympics with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a call last week with leaders from Group of Seven countries. “It’s his decision. … He has told us he has not made a decision,” Trump added. … Meanwhile, because of the pandemic, the United States will no longer host G7 leaders at Camp David on June 10-12, but will instead organize a teleconference, the White House announced (The Hill).

 

 

U.S. life insurance companies: To sidestep financial exposure, U.S. life insurance companies are imposing waiting periods for policy applicants who have traveled to regions with widespread coronavirus outbreaks, industry experts said. Life insurers often ask applicants about travel plans to screen whether they could be at risk for serious diseases, such as malaria, or violence (Reuters). 

> U.S. hostages: Trump said on Thursday he does not know if U.S. hostage Austin Tice, 31, is alive in Syria, but he appealed on television to Syrian captors to release the former journalist who was seized in 2012. Trump cited emotional appeals from Tice’s mother for his remarks to the government of President Bashar Assad (Bloomberg News).  … Separately, hostages Amer Fakhoury, held in Lebanon for months returned to New Hampshire, and Michael R. White, a U.S. Navy veteran held in Iran since 2018 and suffering from cancer, were both freed, Trump announced on Thursday (The New York Times).

> Politics: Connecticut shifted the state’s primary election to June 2 (The Hill). ... Rep. 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 (D-Hawaii) ended her quixotic race for White House on Thursday via a video, and endorsed former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump Jr. to self-publish book 'Liberal Privilege' before GOP convention Tom Price: Here's how we can obtain more affordable care The Memo: Democrats feel rising tide in Florida MORE (The Hill). Also endorsing Biden was Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter MORE (D-N.Y.), another former 2020 rival (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally …  Congratulations to readers who played the Morning Report Quiz and are victorious after surveying famous names linked to this new coronavirus era.

Winners this week: Ki Harvey, Daniel Bachhuber, Daniel McLellan, Paul Blumstein, Patrick Kavanagh, Anna Baker, William Chittam, Karen Chabot, Amb. (ret.) Tom Miller, Desiree Luckey, Linda Karr, Allyson Foster, Ira Azulay, Phil Kirstein and John H. van Santen.

More puzzle masters: Rich Davis, John Carlan, Jim Bond, John Hayden, Deborah L. Hall, Suzanne Kilpela, David Keltz, Jeff Marston, Luther Berg, Norm Roberts, Anita Bales, Mike Roberts, Terry Pflaumer, John Donato, Joan Domingues, Candi Cee, Jim Dykstra, Randall S. Patrick, Dave Harpley, Tim Burrack, Donna Minter, “Trystan” and Bob Schneiderman.

They all knew that Tom Hanks, who was hospitalized in Australia after contracting COVID-19, updated his fans after he was discharged: “No fever but the blahs.”  

Popular actor Idris Elba (pictured below) announced his infection with the coronavirus after contact with someone who had tested positive. He warned against misinformation swirling on social media that blacks are immune to COVID-19.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauTrudeau: Canada handled coronavirus better than many countries, 'including our neighbor' Trump and Mexico: 3 basic truths of the bilateral relationship revealed Trump and Mexico's president have a big agenda on trade and beyond MORE was surprised when his wife, Sophie Gregoire, contracted the virus. He decided to run Canada from home during a precautionary period of self-quarantine. 

U.S. professional athletes are turning up with COVID-19 after being tested, including Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Christian Wood. Thus, the correct answer was “all of the above.”