The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senators clinch deal on $2T stimulus package

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Senate and Trump administration negotiators reached agreement early this morning on a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at blunting the economic impact of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy and families, clearing a path for swift passage today.


The House is expected to approve the measure by unanimous consent following a Senate vote, potentially putting the largest stimulus measure in American history on the president’s desk this week following days of detailed wrangling. President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE has said he will sign it.


“Help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP scrambles to fend off Kobach in Kansas primary Meadows: Election will be held on November third Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency MORE (R-Ky.) announced.


McConnell’s remarks early today followed round-the-clock negotiations that included Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWhite House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE since last week (The Hill).


“At last, we have a deal,” McConnell said at 1:37 a.m. He said the bill would inject "trillions of dollars" into the economy "as fast as possible." “This is a wartime level of investment in our nation. … The American people are already rising to this grave challenge and the Senate is about to follow suit.”


The Washington Post: Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout.


The Associated Press: U.S. stimulus agreement lifts world markets.


Eric Ueland, the president’s legislative affairs director, told reporters the hope is to complete the text of the bill and circulate it to senators early today (CNN). 


In remarks on the floor, Schumer hailed the stimulus as an “outstanding agreement” and pointed to key provisions sought by Democrats to help families. 


“We believe the legislation has been improved significantly,” Schumer said.


The gargantuan economic aid package would give $1,200 to Americans who earn up to $75,000, creating a $500 billion fund to help struggling industries and a $367 billion loan program for small businesses. The bill would also extend a financial boost to hospitals and the healthcare system and provide four months of unemployment insurance to workers furloughed because of the coronavirus.


The legislation creates an inspector general and oversight committee for the corporate assistance program, modeled on the Troubled Asset Relief Program enacted more than a decade ago, according to one senior administration official. 


It would also provide $25 billion in direct financial aid to airlines and $4 billion to air cargo carriers, two industries that have taken a big hit in the economic downturn. If airlines accept a federal grant or a loan, they would have to agree to restrictions on executive compensation and stock buybacks (The Hill).


The deal came together in the aftermath of arduous negotiations. Senate Democrats twice blocked votes to start debate. On Monday, Schumer and Mnuchin met at least five times and kept working until midnight, resuming on Tuesday.


House members, most of whom are not in Washington this week, are expected to vote via unanimous consent after the Senate takes up the mammoth measure (The Hill).


“I can’t speak for the Speaker, I hope she takes it up and she passes it as is,” Mnuchin said of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' White House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates MORE (D-Calif.) the House (Roll Call). 


On Tuesday, Trump said he wants to restart the virus-halted economy by Easter, April 12. Speaking during a Fox News interview program from the Rose Garden, the president urged senators to quickly wrap up the relief bill and he effusively thanked lawmakers of both parties for their work. 


Trump said he’s eager to move beyond the pandemic. “I would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” he said. “I gave it two weeks. … We can socially distance ourselves and go to work” (The Hill). 


Most people think I’m right,” he added. “Our people want it open” (The Associated Press). 


Anticipation of congressional action, coupled with Federal Reserve intervention this week, helped propel the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday to the largest rebound seen since 1933 (CNBC). 


The Hill: Democratic congressional leaders forecast at least two more coronavirus relief bills.


More in Congress:  The Hill’s digital edition today is HERE. … Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows: Election will be held on November third White House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates MORE (R-N.C.) is not Trump’s White House chief of staff yet and remains in Congress until the end of March, according to his spokesman. … House Democrats are exploring remote voting options (The Hill).





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CORONAVIRUS & STATES: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who advises Trump, cautioned on Tuesday that the president’s eagerness to end the ongoing national and state restrictions on life and work is understandable but must be data-driven in key parts of the country. “You can look at a date, but you need to be very flexible” (The Hill).


Fauci said that “no one is going to want to tone down what is happening” to try to halt the spread of COVID-19 in New York City and prepare hospitals for an expected deluge of seriously ill patients. “That’s just common sense.


The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is 802, and confirmed cases number at least 55,225, according to the latest information.





States, cities and hospitals battling the coronavirus are making difficult decisions to preserve crucial resources, even as more and faster tests for the respiratory virus become available. Nevertheless, some of the hardest-hit areas of the country are limiting testing to the most vulnerable in order to conserve limited masks, gowns and gloves for health workers. California, Maryland, Illinois and Washington have declared stay-at-home or shutdown orders because of the COVID-19 spread. Other states are reluctant to go that far (The Hill).


> New York: Vice President Pence and administration public health experts on Tuesday night advised people who recently fled New York City to ride out the coronavirus to self-quarantine for 14 days wherever they may be this week because of the extremely high infection and mortality rates showing up in the New York-New Jersey region (The New York Times). 


The region is home to 56 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation, 60 percent of all new cases of the infection in the United States are popping up in that area, and 31 percent of people who die from the disease call that region home, according to Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist detailed to the White House to coordinate health policy during the pandemic. 


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) implored the federal government on live television and radio early on Tuesday to send his state 30,000 ventilators, far more than the 400 ventilators he said were initially offered by the Trump administration. By the end of the day, the government hastily said it would deliver 2,000 ventilators for New York City and 2,000 for the rest of the state within 48 hours from the federal stockpile.


That stockpile has only 16,600 ventilators remaining and dozens of pleas for help across the states (Center for Public Integrity). 


“What am I going to do with 400 ventilators?” Cuomo said early Monday in response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s first offer. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators!”


During a midday Fox News interview in the Rose Garden shortly after Cuomo forcefully made his case, Pence announced that New York would rapidly get thousands of additional ventilators from the federal stockpile by midweek. Trump, during the same town hall discussion, grumbled that Cuomo, whose briefing he watched on television, should have purchased thousands of ventilators for his state four years ago.


New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioFear first, education last? MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley departs network to explore New York mayoral run NYPD has arrested at least eight for vandalizing Black Lives Matter memorial MORE (D) expressed gratitude on Tuesday for the administration’s revised decision to send hospitals there additional equipment, adding his city still has a shortage it must fill. “I don’t want to see a single person die who could have been saved. That is my standard,” he added, referencing his coordination with Cuomo to pressure Washington to release thousands more ventilators, which control patients’ breathing mechanically. “This is a race against time.”


Cuomo warned of the meteoric rise of infections in and around New York City (The New York Times). “I understand what the president is saying. This is unsustainable,” the governor said, referring to the ongoing shutdown of the U.S. economy in many states. “But if you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest. No American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life because no American is going to say how much a life is worth” (The Hill).


> Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) used his own news briefing to describe a shutdown of non-essential businesses at noon on Tuesday and to call for an end to partisanship during the nation’s battle with COVID-19 (The Boston Globe).


Washington, D.C.: Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the closure of all nonessential businesses in Washington, adding that extended school closures are possible but not imminent (The Washington Post).


CORONAVIRUS & MEDICINE: If you contract the coronavirus, beware the “second week crash.” Patients often believe they’re getting better before a sudden, precipitous decline that sends them to the emergency room and then to intensive care units (The New York Times podcast, The Daily).


The New York Times Magazine, by deputy editor Jessica Lustig: “What I learned when my husband got sick with coronavirus.”


CNBC: FDA allows treatment of critically ill coronavirus patients with blood from survivors.


The New York Times: Tech company Oracle is providing the White House with software to collect data and study hypothetical therapies for coronavirus, including two malaria drugs touted by Trump. The president has told Americans that a “game changer” treatment is imminent, but his rhetoric concerns senior health officials and public health experts, who believe the Oracle program would amount to a sprawling, crowdsourced clinical trial without FDA controls.







CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Public health officials in the United States and around the world are warning that what Italy has experienced in recent weeks could be a preview of what’s to come in the United States. Of the 69,176 confirmed cases reported in Europe’s hot zone country, 6,820 have died.


As Reid Wilson writes, while governors of 17 states have issued “stay-at-home” directives or similar orders, the president has not done so nationwide and instead hopes that the United States can relax policies that have kept people at home. 


“In some countries the situation will get worse before it gets better,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of emerging diseases and zoonoses at the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters on Monday. The WHO has warned that the United States is at risk of becoming the next epicenter of the sprawling pandemic. 


However, the prospect of relaxing social distancing rules and reopening parts of the economy would almost certainly lead to a coronavirus case curve that would grow, rather than flatten. Like Italy, some are not considering the weight of the situation, leading to the overcrowding of hospitals and shortages of supplies and equipment. In Italy, doctors have begun rationing care, making heart-wrenching decisions about who gets treatment and who is left to die.


“Somehow people are not processing the gravity of the situation, and that is what happened in Italy,” said Janet Baseman, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.





Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a “total lockdown” for 1.3 billion in the country over the next three weeks as the number of confirmed cases continue to rise. As part of the shutdown, only essential services will remain up and running, while all nonessential shops and companies as well as places of worship will be shuttered. Also being shut down for the next 21 days are buses and subways. 


“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said.


"According to health experts, a minimum of 21 days is most crucial to break the cycle of infection. If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be setback by 21 years. If we are not able to manage the next 21 days, then many families will be destroyed forever," Modi said (CNN).


As of this morning, India had 562 confirmed cases and 10 deaths due to COVID-19. 


In the United Kingdom, the first of 21 days without nonessential businesses and a ban on gatherings of three or more individuals did not go according to plan, as photos surfaced on social media of packed train cars on the London Underground.


“Stop Tube travel or more will die,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Tuesday (BBC).


With a 21-day lockdown slated to begin Friday, South Africans are preparing. They will be able to leave home only under “strictly controlled circumstances” to access essential goods, including to buy groceries and medicine or to collect a social grant (Al Jazeera).


Fox News: Americans, foreigners desperately try to leave South Africa ahead of coronavirus lockdown.


In Spain, nearly 6,600 new confirmed cases — a one-day record — and more than 500 deaths were recorded on Tuesday as the nation continues to struggle containing the virus despite the government issuing a stay-at-home order. Police have arrested more than 900 for disobeying the order (The Associated Press).


Finally, as Politico points out, there are questions being raised over the numbers being reported out of China. While China has claimed victory against the virus and only reported 78 new cases on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s public broadcasting reported that Wuhan is “denying virus tests to keep numbers down.” Meanwhile, Japan’s Kyodo News reported that the number of cases in Wuhan were being manipulated ahead of a recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.


According to the latest statistics, there are 425,493 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, with the death toll hitting 18,963 as of this morning.

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There is a monumental crisis on the front line of the coronavirus battle, by Dorothy Novick, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. 


The dollar squeeze Is coming for China Inc., by Anjanii Trived, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion.  


The House meets in a pro forma session at 10 a.m.


The Senate meets at noon.


The president receives his intelligence briefing in the Oval Office at 11:30 a.m. Trump will participate in a 2 p.m. phone call with nonprofit organizations about responding to the pandemic. The president is expected to take questions from the press corps at 5 p.m. about the government’s coronavirus response efforts.


Pence will participate in the president’s events tied to COVID-19, including a meeting of the administration’s coronavirus task force. The vice president will participate in the daily press briefing at 5 p.m. to take questions and provide federal updates.


Economic indicator: The Census Bureau at 8:30 a.m. releases its report on the advance durable goods orders in February, which may show the emergence of supply chain problems last month prompted by the virus.


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Olympics postponed: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he has reached an agreement with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to postpone the Olympics for about one year. Summer 2021 is the latest that these Olympics could be held, Abe said (The Associated Press).


News media: Major U.S. newspapers called on China to reverse expulsions of their journalists from the country (The Hill). … Twitter announced it will donate $1 million to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation, both nonprofits. 


National politics: Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE (I-Vt.) plans to participate in an April Democratic primary debate, if there is one, against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system MORE. No date or location has been set (The New York Times). … Delaware Gov. John CarneyJohn Charles CarneyHere's your state's plan for reopening schools Here are the states requiring masks in public Gannett reporter covering Floyd protests detained in Delaware MORE (D) postponed the state’s April 28 presidential primary to June 2 because of the coronavirus (Delaware News Journal). … Biden said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Democratic National Convention in July should be canceled, arguing that it is possible to fight COVID-19 while moving forward with normal “democratic processes” (The Hill). … Biden also said that he has not been tested for the coronavirus and has not had any symptoms at this point (The Hill). ...White House coronavirus briefings are the new campaign rallies for Trump, reports The Associated Press. And managing the U.S. response to the pandemic has helped the president’s standing with Americans. Sixty percent of voters say they approve of the job Trump is doing to respond to the coronavirus, according to Gallup, while the president’s job approval rose 5 points to 49 percent (The Hill).


Tech: Speaking of Twitter (above), GOP lawmakers and Trump allies have increased pressure on the social media giant to crack down on disinformation from Chinese government officials and agencies regarding the coronavirus (The Hill).





And finally …  Sacrificio divino. A 72-year-old Italian priest, Father Giuseppe Berardelli, who was infected by COVID-19, chose to give a respirator purchased for him by his parishioners to a young patient also sick with the virus to try to save the stranger’s life. Berardelli, the archpriest of Casnigo, died this month in a hospital in Lovere, not far from Milan (Araberara).