The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill

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After days of partisan wrangling and under Wall Street pressure to move with all deliberate speed, the Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed the largest economic rescue measure in American history, promising tens of millions of families and workers, and thousands of large and small businesses a hand up from the federal government to try to survive the coronavirus crisis.


The $2.2 trillion package of assistance now heads to the House, where passage is expected. President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE vowed on Wednesday to sign the measure “immediately,” and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience On The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed MORE said the first federal checks to qualifying Americans could be sent out within three weeks. Banks should be prepared to originate loans by next week, once the law is enacted, he added.


Senators voted 96-0 on a mammoth, 883-page measure that few, if any, lawmakers read in its entirety. Among its provisions are direct tax rebates and four months of expanded unemployment benefits for workers who are losing jobs as the U.S. economy brakes from coast to coast (The Hill). On the sensitive unemployment benefits issue, a Senate amendment proposing to be less generous failed on a 48 to 48 vote (The Hill).


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellImmigration, executive action top Biden preview of first 100 days Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report MORE (R-Ky.) hailed the result, which passed with no opposition months after the evident rancor of impeachment and acquittal of the president. “We pivoted from impeachment to 100-0 on this rescue package, and this was about as flawless as you could possibly be,” he told reporters.


“I think one of the reasons that happened is we’re inspired by what’s going on around the country,” he added. “People are helping each other, reaching out, looking for ways to make a difference, following the directions of the healthcare professionals, This is a proud moment of the United States Senate and for the country, and we’re going to win this battle in the very near future.”


The Washington Post: Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief.


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) earlier in the evening defended offering $600 per worker, per week, in unemployment insurance in addition to state benefits if an individual is furloughed because of the coronavirus. She rejected some conservatives’ initial concerns that the benefit would incentivize low-wage workers to walk off the job and not work. “You can’t just quit and say, ‘I’m going on unemployment,’” Pelosi told Judy Woodruff during an interview on PBS’s NewsHour. The speaker said the one-size-fits-all strategy was best, given the complexity of tailoring this kind of relief to different states, which was an argument Mnuchin also made on Wednesday. 


The Senate package — the third and definitely not the last in an unprecedented series of bills responding to the coronavirus contagion since its emergence in December —  includes hundreds of billions of dollars in federal help for corporations, more than $350 billion for small businesses and new funding for many major hospitals that believe they are on the brink of being overwhelmed by patients sickened by COVID-19.


Indeed, New York City on Wednesday night reported 280 deaths among 20,011 confirmed cases of the virus. At least 3,750 people are hospitalized with the respiratory disease and 840 are receiving intensive care in the city (The New York Times). The state as a whole has 30,811 confirmed cases, a spike of 5,000 since Tuesday, a sign of expanded testing, and in one hospital, an “apocalyptic surge” (The New York Times).


Nationwide this morning, there have been at least 69,197 confirmed cases as testing ramps up, along with at least 1,046 fatalities attributed to COVID-19.


The Senate’s legislation offers help to hospitals and payouts to 150 million households, along with bailouts to distressed corporations and industries. It includes $1,200 checks for most individuals and potentially more later, deployed to inject billions of dollars into the teetering U.S. economy beginning next month. The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda reports on what families may want to know about the cash payments.


The Senate legislation underwrites hundreds of billions of dollars in loans as federal incentives to avert massive layoffs. As The Hill’s Niv Elis writes, small and medium businesses with fewer than 500 workers will be able to apply for government-backed, forgivable loans to cover the costs of their workers’ wages, as well as some other business expenses such as rent, up to a maximum of $10 million. If companies lay off workers, however, parts of the loan will not be forgiven.


“We have never done anything like this before,” said Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), a conservative who would in other circumstances be opposed to a more than $2 trillion spending bill. “The idea is to encourage these companies to keep workers on the payroll.”


The Hill: House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (D-Md.) expects to pass coronavirus bill on Friday.


The Hill’s Jordain Carney takes a look at seven key things to know about the legislation, including the cash payments coming to many Americans, unemployment insurance, how it will bolster the healthcare system, and its effect on student loans payments.


READ the text of the legislation HERE.


The Associated Press: Highlights of Congress’s relief plan.  


There will be many accounts of winners and losers in the bill, but it’s already clear that Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) believes her city got the short end of the stick when lawmakers decided to treat the nation’s capital like a U.S. territory rather than like a state. The difference in available funding in a city with more than 230 COVID-19 infections and three deaths from the virus is substantial, and Bowser wants lawmakers to fix the problem in future legislation (The Washington Post).


Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters that the “odds are high” that lawmakers will need to work on a fourth coronavirus package (Politico). 


The Washington Post analysis: The stimulus bill cannot prevent a recession, and it’s unclear if it can stave off a depression.


Jim Tankersley, The New York Times: A $2 trillion lifeline will help, but more may be needed.


The Hill: Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights.


The Hill: Mass transit systems desperate for financial relief as riders stay home.


The Hill: McConnell said senators will be in recess until their next vote scheduled on April 20. 


The Hill: 13 things to know about the coronavirus (a news roundup).


Trump's urgent April timeline to reopen the economy, which has added drama to a decision he could announce by Monday, has ignited a clash with governors and mayors who are expanding their own stay-at-home orders and school closures and pleading with citizens to maintain social distancing.


While the president has clear authority to rescind or alter federal health guidelines, it's not clear local officials must follow them if they believe their states or municipalities are at risk (The Hill).  


On Wednesday, Trump continued to seek credit from the public for steps he has taken to try to contain and then mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “It’s hard not to be happy with the job we are doing, that I can tell you,” he said at the White House.


As Niall Stanage writes, the president’s allies are wary of his impatience to restart the economy and get back to work, even in states where confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been scarce to date. As Trump earns high marks in some polls for his handling of the crisis, some supporters believe misjudgment and a precipitous push to resume travel, work and commerce could be hugely damaging to Americans and toxic for the president’s bid for a second term.


Former Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.): Congress is not immune to this crisis. 


More news in Congress: Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Democratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum MORE (D-Mass.) has a respiratory illness and is self-quarantining along with his wife, Liz, but is not seeking to be tested for COVID-19 because he says his symptoms are minor. … Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (D-Mass..) are awaiting coronavirus test results (The Washington Post). … Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate leadership, left Washington on Wednesday before the final vote on the stimulus bill because he felt unwell and wants to consult with his physician in Sioux Falls, his spokesman said.





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CORONAVIRUS & STATES: New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday said his state has incurred at least $1 billion in additional costs because of the coronavirus, and he predicted the state’s budget will balloon well beyond that estimate. Cuomo said the federal relief bill in Washington was insufficient for his state, including New York City. The governor described $3.8 billion for the state and $1.3 billion for New York City as “a drop in the bucket as to need.” He urged House lawmakers to add multiples of billions of dollars to federal funding for the Empire State (The Hill). 


To handle an anticipated surge in deaths between now and April due to COVID-19 infections, New York City workers with the medical examiner’s office began on Wednesday to build a large makeshift morgue using white tents and trucks outside of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan (NBC4 New York).   


The Hill: Schumer waves off Cuomo criticism that he didn't deliver for New York with coronavirus stimulus.


The Washington Post: 147 nursing homes around the country have reported cases of COVID-19, but federal officials refuse to tell the public which ones. 





> New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Wednesday announced an executive order to close all child care centers through April 1 because of the virus. 


> Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R) (pictured below) is under pressure for what his critics describe as a slow response to the coronavirus outbreak as Florida’s confirmed cases near 1,500. DeSantis has been criticized by some for not closing the state’s crowded beaches and not issuing a statewide stay at home order (The Hill).





> California: Social distancing guidelines and limits of five people at funerals have led residents in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California to postpone funeral services and lament the current challenges in mourning loved ones (ABC7). 


> Colorado: Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado order allows hospitals to stop admitting, transfer patients when at capacity due to COVID-19 Broncos announce this weekend will be last game in front of fans this season Effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has failed to collect necessary signatures by deadline MORE (D) on Wednesday announced a stay-at-home order for his state. Colorado has at least 1,085 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 19 deaths (CBS4 Denver).


> Louisiana: The death toll soared in Louisiana on Wednesday as officials prepared for more coronavirus cases and more layoffs in a painful one-two punch (The Associated Press). … The state could run out of ventilators by early April, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) warned on Wednesday (The Hill). 


> Massachusetts: Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Van Drew fends off challenge from Kennedy after party switch Markey wins reelection in Massachusetts MORE III (D-Mass.) on Wednesday said he supports a nationwide stay-at-home order, arguing that such a stringent effort “is the only way this pandemic ends.” Trump and administration officials will have to decide by next week whether to extend federal guidance beyond 15 days in which Americans have been asked to remain at home except for essential business. That period expires on Monday. Other Democratic lawmakers have echoed Kennedy’s call for a national lockdown (The Hill).


> Idaho: Gov. Brad Little (R) on Wednesday issued a 21-day stay-at-home order for all non-essential activities in his state (Idaho Statesman). 


> Rural America: Much of the COVID-19 attention has been focused on big cities and populous states with rising numbers of cases. But rural communities and low-population states, which examine the virus from afar, say they think the infection will impact them, too. In rural America, medical intervention for prolonged lifesaving respiratory care may be scarce (The Associated Press). 


> Texas, Missouri and Ohio: These argely conservative states turned the coronavirus pandemic into a new front in the reproductive rights wars, designating abortion as a "non-essential" medical procedure that must be canceled to save supplies for coronavirus patients. But women’s clinics in the three states argue abortion is an essential and time-sensitive procedure. The new clashes come after a year in which Texas, Missouri and Ohio embraced major restrictions on abortion, with a goal of encouraging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (The Hill). 


CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Around the world this morning, there are at least 474,204 confirmed cases of the virus and 21,353 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.


The death toll in Spain eclipsed 3,600, surpassing China, following 738 fatalities in a single day as the hospitals struggle with the surge of patients and scarce space in which to treat them.


According to the latest information, Spain has 49,515 confirmed cases of the virus, the fourth-highest of any country after Italy, China and the U.S. 


Fernando Simon, a top Spanish health official, said Wednesday he expects the number of positive cases to rise in the coming days, according to CNN


“[It’s] an increase equivalent to the one we saw in the last days, and lower than the ones we were observing last week,” Simon said. “These increases are variable to the different communities, but the evolution of the epidemic in which we are approaching the peak does not go hand-in-hand with the overload in the hospital system, because it takes a few days from the first symptoms” (Fox News).


Others on the front line there are warning that the rise of cases is overwhelming the medical wherewithal in the country. As of Wednesday, nearly 6,500 medical personnel had been infected, roughly 13 percent of the country’s total number of cases and 1 percent of the health system’s workforce.


“We are collapsing. We need more workers,” said Lidia Perera, a nurse who works at Madrid’s Hospital de la Paz, which has 1,000 beds (The Associated Press). 


In Russia, President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Biden rolls out national security team MORE postponed a national vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay in office for 16 more years after the nation reported its first deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote was slated for April 22. 


Putin, who has served as president for 16 of the past 20 years, did not set a new date, citing the potential growth of the pandemic and how the nation handles it. Russia reported two deaths from the virus on Wednesday, its first as it continues to grip parts of the world. 


“Health, life and safety of the people is an absolute priority for us,” Putin said. “That is why I believe that the vote should be postponed. We will assess how the situation in the regions and the country as a whole develops, and will set a new date for the vote based exclusively on professional opinion and advice from doctors and experts.”


The amendment would reset Putin’s term count, allowing him to run for two more six-year terms. He has served as president since 2012 and his current term is up in 2024 (The Associated Press). Russia has 840 confirmed cases of the virus and three deaths.





In the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that 405,000 volunteers have signed up to help the National Health Service (NHS) as it continues to combat COVID-19. 


A day earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for at least 250,000 people “in good health” to aid the NHS in its work to slow the spread of the virus. Today, there are 9,640 positive cases of COVID-19 and 467 fatalities. 


“When we launched the appeal we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers,” Johnson said at a press conference. “In just 24 hours 405,000 people have responded to the call.”


Reuters: Italy coronavirus deaths rise by 683 in a day, lifting total death toll to 7,503.


The Associated Press: As outbreak blows up finances, a limit to European Union solidarity.


As Congress readies to pass the stimulus deal, Germany went ahead and approved a package of its own on Wednesday exceeding $810 billion to deal with the virus, marking the first time the country has taken on debt since 2013 (Reuters). 


France 24: Cannes Film Festival venue opens doors to homeless during France's lockdown.


Meanwhile, wealthy Chinese families who have relatives studying or working in the United States are spending astronomical sums on charter flights to help them escape the coronavirus in America and head home to China where the contagion began but is now tamer (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!


A simple plan to help our hospitals: Nursing and medical school students can relieve some of the pressure, by Theresa Brown, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3almZhU


The shutdown is killing the economy and is also no good for our health, by Robert Arnott and Stephen MooreStephen MooreSunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Trump ally Stephen Moore: President 'going to leave the office triumphant' Sunday shows - Election results, coronavirus dominate headlines MORE, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3aiYpOF


The House meets in a pro forma session at 11 a.m.


The Senate will convene for a pro forma session on Monday at 11 a.m. The next votes are scheduled for April 20. 


The president will participate at 8 a.m. in a video teleconference with the leaders of the Group of 20 leading economies. The White House coronavirus task force will brief the press at 5 p.m.


Vice President Pence will lead a meeting of the coronavirus task force and participate in this evening’s briefing for reporters.


Mnuchin is scheduled at 3 p.m. to meet with the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the Treasury Department.


Economic indicator: The Labor Department will release a report at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. weekly jobless claims. Analysts anticipate new data over the last week will show a significant spike in coronavirus-related layoffs. 


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Royals: Diagnosed with the coronavirus, heir to the British throne Prince Charles, 71, is recovering at Balmoral with mild symptoms and was last in contact with his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on March 12. The queen, 93, is reported to be in good health (BBC).


Longest-held hostage in U.S. history presumed dead: The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized mission for the CIA, announced Wednesday that they believe he died in Iranian custody. "We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody. We don't know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," family members said in a statement, which also thanked the president,  administration officials and members of Congress for their efforts on Levinson’s behalf (CNN and The New York Times).


Immigrants: Thousands of immigrants with legal status in the United States could inadvertently violate immigration law over the next few months. Attorneys, think tanks, activists and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — the agency that issues visas, work permits and naturalizations to foreign nationals — have proposed ways to fix vulnerabilities under law created by the coronavirus work stoppages. Many immigrants could face three- or 10-year bans from the United States if their paperwork expires (The Hill).


And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the 15th anniversary of the premiere of the comedy program “The Office,” we’re eager for some smart guesses about the long-running television hit.


Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


What does Michael Scott’s mug say?

  1. That’s What She Said
  2. World’s Best Boss
  3. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
  4. From Dwight

With whom does Dwight Schrute duel (literally) to win over Angela as his significant other?

  1. Andy Bernard
  2. Ryan Howard
  3. Cousin Mose
  4. Todd Packer

Which famed actor and comedian played Deangelo Vickers, who replaced Michael Scott as the manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton?

  1. Jim Carrey
  2. Ray Romano
  3. Will Ferrell
  4. Ricky Gervais 

Which character did Jim Halpert abruptly break up with to date Pam Beesly? 

  1. Katy Moore 
  2. Jan Levinson Gould
  3. Karen Filippelli
  4. None of the above