The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - House clears virus package; Trump breaks with Fauci

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 40,683. Tuesday, 42,364. Wednesday, 45,075. Thursday, 46,785. Friday, 49,963.

In five days, more than 9,000 people perished from COVID-19 in the United States.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE at noon will sign a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill to help small businesses and hospitals after the House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to follow the Senate’s lead, which ended intense bipartisan negotiations this week (The Hill).  

The vote was 388-5-1, with four conservative Republicans breaking with GOP leaders to oppose the measure, citing its effect on the federal deficit. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Overnight Energy: EPA finalizes rollback of Obama-era oil and gas methane emissions standards | Democratic lawmakers ask Interior to require masks indoors at national parks | Harris climate agenda stresses need for justice Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides MORE (D-N.Y.) opposed the measure, while Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashKudlow acknowledges executive orders may end up in court: 'We're going to go ahead with our actions anyways' Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Peter Meijer wins GOP primary in Amash's Michigan district MORE (I-Mich.) voted present.

The nearly $500 billion law will give $320 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which was emptied nearly two weeks after the CARES Act was passed in late March, $75 billion to aid hospitals and an additional $25 billion to increase testing nationwide.  

The four Republican lawmakers to vote against the bill were House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Reps. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Facebook bans ads from pro-Trump PAC | Uber reports big drop in revenue | US offers M reward for election interference info Senate passes legislation to ban TikTok on federal devices The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (Colo.), Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceQAnon backer Marjorie Taylor Greene wins Georgia GOP runoff QAnon supporter in Georgia heads into tight GOP runoff GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor MORE (Ga.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieMassie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (Ky.) (The Hill). The president will sign the legislation into law at a noon ceremony in the Oval Office. 

The House action included never-before-seen visual drama as lawmakers cast their votes wearing face coverings and gloves to ward off infection by the coronavirus. At the same time, members were trying to pour an eye-popping amount of federal funding on a contracting U.S. economy. As House members convened on Thursday, the government reported another 4.4 million people filed jobless claims last week, reminding lawmakers that 26 million of their constituents became unemployed over a span of five historic weeks (The Hill)

Among the issues left out of negotiations was an increase in funding for state and local governments. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' Overnight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal MORE (R-Ky.) opposes the funding, the president and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE have indicated their support for its inclusion in the fifth coronavirus-related package. Lawmakers believe this looming package is likely to be another mammoth bill on par with the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill.

Both chambers of Congress are not expected to return to Washington until May 4, at the earliest.

The Associated Press: Somber Congress delivers nearly $500B more in virus aid. 

The Hill: McConnell sparks bipartisan backlash with state bankruptcy remarks. 

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers set to take gloves off in next coronavirus aid fight.

Reuters: Wall Street rose on hopes that the worst for a shocked labor market may have passed.

The president on Thursday continued to sound upbeat notes about throttling the COVID-19 contagion while also reopening states and communities this month.

We’re coming out of it, and we’re coming out of it well,” he told reporters, noting the latest public health statistics that suggest new cases nationally have declined in 23 states.   

Vice President Pence said 16 states have released plans to revive commerce. “By early summer, we could be in a much better place,” he added, noting that the White House coronavirus task force will speak with governors today by conference call. 

Trump commended governors for their collective and individual mitigation efforts while repeating his disapproval of a decision by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia to reopen tattoo parlors and nail salons, among other businesses, today. The president repeated that the governor’s decision was “too soon,” an assessment Kemp has rejected. 

On Thursday, Trump was enthusiastic about early research conducted by the Department of Homeland Security examining the effects of heat, UV sunlight and humidity to weaken the virus on non-porous surfaces and in the air. As Reid Wilson reports, the president has also made a habit of sidelining scientists when their conclusions diverge from his own interests. Critics, including on Capitol Hill, resumed their arguments this week that Trump silences and in some cases punishes federal experts when he’s contradicted.

Trump also told reporters that he disagreed with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci defends voting by mail if 'you don't want to take the chance' in person Museum unveils new Fauci bobbleheads after previous edition sells out Marlee Matlin: 'Unfathomable' that White House doesn't have sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings MORE, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, after the immunologist told TIME the United States does not yet have the testing capacity necessary to effectively contain the spread of COVID-19 while stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed.  

“No, I don’t agree with him on that. I think we are doing a great job on testing,” Trump said when asked by a reporter about Fauci’s comment. 

The president and Pence on Thursday said 4.93 million COVID-19 tests have been administered nationwide, but Trump conceded the administration began with a “a test that didn’t work.” A variety of publicly and privately created tests for the virus have been developed since the government’s halting start, and states have been told by Trump they are on their own to acquire, distribute and process enough coronavirus tests to people going forward.

The president described the U.S. as more advanced than other nations on testing, claiming that other countries have inquired about American capabilities (The Hill).

W. James Antle III, Washington Examiner: Pandemic stretches Trump image as gutsy decision-maker to the breaking point. 

More in Congress: House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters expresses confidence Biden will pick Black woman as VP Bill from Warren, Gillibrand and Waters would make Fed fight economic racial inequalities Waters rips Trump, GOP over mail-in ballots: 'They'll lie, cheat and steal to stay in power' MORE (D-Calif.) said on the House floor on Thursday that her sister is dying of coronavirus in a hospital in St Louis, Mo. …Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides Howard Kurtz: Kamala Harris 'getting walk on water coverage' by media after VP pick MORE’s oldest brother, 86, died in Norman, Okla., of COVID-19 (The Boston Globe). …On a happier note, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), once an American Red Cross president, along with World Series champion Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica Scherzer, are joining forces with the Humane Rescue Alliance in the Washington metro region, to promote pet preparedness and COVID-19 safety in a public service announcement campaign, #PlanforPets. The message is to “make plans now” for temporary caregivers in case pet owners become sick or hospitalized.

 



 

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LEADING THE DAY

STATE WATCH: A handful of states are taking their chances and lifting some coronavirus restrictions beginning today, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and Texas (South Carolina began on Tuesday) (The Associated Press).

Meanwhile, in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. epidemic, officials have put large-scale testing to eye-opening use, learning that COVID-19 is already found in 1 in every 5 people tested so far in New York City. That’s useful data as businesses, schools and public facilities weigh how and how soon to lift stay-at-home orders (The Associated Press).  

The Hill: States are all over the map when it comes to reopening for business.

> New York: Close to 14 percent of the state’s tested population to date (3,000 people) harbor signs in their blood of COVID-19 antibodies, according to Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoMarlee Matlin: 'Unfathomable' that White House doesn't have sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup New York may be undercounting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes: AP MORE (D). Twenty-one percent of the tested population in New York City show evidence of antibodies, according to a study the governor cited on Thursday (CNBC). … At the same time, researchers now believe COVID-19, like an iceberg, was largely hidden from view in major U.S. cities when it first arrived. Confirmed cases appeared to be scarce in testing in early March in urban centers, while researchers now believe the contagion had already become a mammoth hazard weeks earlier (The New York Times).

> California: 40 million Golden State residents currently live under a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia coronavirus case count tops 600,000 California slams 'inaccurate and outdated beliefs' of parents suing to reopen schools Bass on filling Harris's Senate spot: 'I'll keep all my options open' MORE (D) (pictured below). The order closed schools, beaches, parks and most businesses while canceling things like concerts and sporting events to prevent the spread of the disease. On Wednesday, Newsom began to ease his state into a slow-motion restart, leaving it up to local jurisdictions and individual hospitals to determine how and how soon to resume elective surgeries for heart and cancer patients, among others (The Associated Press). 

California and New Mexico, which extended its stay-at-home order, are now also testing asymptomatic people for signs of COVID-19 infection.

 

  

> Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Thursday lifted her order delaying non-urgent procedures performed by health care providers beginning May 1, as long as they can demonstrate they have met new requirements for COVID-19 safety and preparedness. Hospitals, surgical centers, medical offices and dental offices that meet those requirements will be able to resume non-urgent procedures next month. “As anyone waiting for an elective surgery knows, ‘non-urgent’ does not mean ‘minor,'” Brown said. “This is incredibly important medical care that we would not have told providers to delay if the threat of COVID-19 had not made it necessary.”

> Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday in an interview with Politico that he hopes to reopen his state’s economy in phases, classifying businesses as high, medium and low risk, and making decisions based on factors specific to each, as well as the state’s capacity to test people, trace contacts for infection and be assured that hospitals can handle a cluster of new infections. Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, said he will wait to make major decisions affecting the Maryland economy until he sees 14 consecutive days of decreased COVID-19 cases. He said even when the state starts to see drops in the number of new cases, he will not implement a “flip of a switch” approach to reopening the state (The Baltimore Sun).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE has emerged with a polling edge over the president in a cadre of key battleground states that backed Trump in 2016.

According to a number of polls in key states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, Biden holds solid leads over Trump, and a loss in any of the three states — especially Florida — could do irreparable harm to his chances of winning a second term. The former vice president is also the recipient of a higher favorability rating, with respondents saying that they trust Biden more to handle a global pandemic.

Biden also holds leads among senior citizens, which supported Trump four years ago, college-educated whites, women, and is leading among African Americans and Latinos by wide margin.

The lead in these three key states come as the pandemic continues to keep the presumptive Democratic nominee off the campaign trail, forcing him to resort to taking part in scattered cable news interviews. However, Biden has kept a low profile in the meantime, focusing on virtual fundraisers as the campaign has rolled out a number of key endorsements.  

The approach is in contrast to the president’s as he holds a widely-watched briefing almost every day (The Hill). Trump criticized Biden’s activity these days during Thursday’s briefing, arguing that the former VP is using the opportunity to do little day-to-day. 

“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen [in November]. We have a sleepy guy in a basement of a house that the press is giving a free pass to, who doesn’t want to do debates because of COVID, and lots of things are happening, right,” Trump said. “I watched a couple of interviews and he says ‘oh, I look forward to this,’ but they’re keeping him sheltered because of the coronavirus, and he’s not moving around. He’s not moving too much.” 

The Hill: Ocasio-Cortez says she will vote for Biden in November.

Bloomberg News: Conservative watchdog claims anti-Trump group violated tax laws.

Appearing at a virtual fundraiser on Thursday night, the former vice president said that he expects Trump to attempt to delay the general election in November for one reason or another. 

"Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held,” Biden told attendees. "Imagine threatening not to fund the post office. Now, what in God’s name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote.That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”

Trump has not commented on the possibility (NBC News).

Bloomberg News: Larry Summers advising Biden campaign on economic recovery, much to the chagrin of progressives.

 

***

 

INTERNATIONAL: The World Health Organization (WHO) should make major and necessary chances over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo says he and Pentagon warned Russia against bounties on US troops in Afghanistan US blocking private charter flights to Cuba China's Confucius Institute designated as a foreign mission of Beijing MORE said this week, adding that the administration’s decision to freeze U.S. funding for the global health agency may become permanent.  

“I think we need to take a real hard look at the WHO and what we do coming out of this,” Pompeo told Fox News late on Wednesday. “We reformed this back in 2007, so this isn’t the first time we’ve had to deal with the shortcomings of this organization that sits inside the United Nations. We need a fix. We need a structural fix with the WHO” (Reuters). 

The U.S. is shifting its contributions for global health security away from the WHO directly to individual partners amid the fight against COVID-19. Pompeo has started laying the groundwork, accusing WHO leadership of failing to exercise authority over the Chinese Communist Party for its handling of the outbreak (The Hill).  

> Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel, who began her career as a chemist, on Wednesday addressed her countrymen with a clear-eyed view of COVID-19: "Nobody likes to hear this but it is the truth. We are not living through the final phase of this crisis, we are still at its beginning. We will still have to live with this virus for a long time” (Reuters). … Meanwhile, German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG says it faces a cash crunch and is in talks about a possible bailout (Bloomberg News).

 

  

> France: The government announced on Thursday it will begin to lift coronavirus restrictions using a “national framework” but on a case-by-case basis regionally rather than all at once, lifting the stay-at-home orders on May 11, as previously announced (Bloomberg News).

> Europe: 18 million people are unemployed in European nations while governments are paying the tab (The Wall Street Journal). 

> United Kingdom: Great Britain’s economy is crumbling. “We are experiencing an economic contraction that is faster and deeper than anything we have seen in the past century, or possibly several centuries,” Bank of England interest-rate setter Jan Vlieghe said. The recovery, he said, was unlikely to be swift (Reuters).

Reuters: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on the mend after COVID-19, faces lockdown conundrum.

> South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that the month-long lockdown will start being relaxed on May 1, starting with some travel restrictions and allowing a number of industries to reopen.  

According to Ramaphosa, the National Coronavirus Command Council determined that the lockdown conditions will be lowered to level 4 in a week, down from level 5. Travel will only take place within the national borders as international travel will remain shuttered (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

America is awakening to China. This is a clarion call to seize the moment, by Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Ron Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Utah), opinion contributor, The Washington Post https://wapo.st/2S2Zaod 

We’re stuck in coronavirus limbo, by Charlie Warzel, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3aC7Nwe

 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene a pro forma session at 10:30 a.m.

The Senate will hold a pro forma session on Monday at 8 a.m. 

The president will hold a signing ceremony for the newest coronavirus legislation at noon in the Oval Office. Trump will also receive a briefing about NASA’s COVID-19 response at 2:30 p.m. 

Pence, along with the president, will take part in the daily coronavirus task force briefing at 5 p.m. 

The Coronavirus Report, helmed by The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons, has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!

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

Courts: Litigation efforts to hold China liable for the coronavirus outbreak are likely to face long odds in courts, according to legal experts. Missouri and Mississippi say they are suing the Chinese government and its officials in federal court, along with several class-action lawsuits against Beijing. But U.S. law grants foreign states broad immunity from legal action (The Hill). 

Medical weapons against coronavirus?: Remdesivir, the Gilead antiviral drug that was hastened into clinical trials for potential use with COVID-19, failed in its first randomized clinical trial, The Financial Times reported on Thursday. With Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the drug has been administered via IV under compassionate care to treat some seriously ill coronavirus patients in this country, but its efficacy has only been anecdotally described. Gilead’s stock fell on the news. … At least 35 members of Congress wrote to the FDA this week backing a “challenge trial” to speed up development of a potential coronavirus vaccine. Such a technique, involving human patients rather than prolonged experimentation with animals, is controversial because volunteers would be infected with COVID-19. A website set up to recruit volunteers says more than 1,000 people say they’re willing (The Hill).

Heat, humidity & coronavirus: Environmental conditions, but not necessarily seasonality, may be important to understanding how COVID-19 can survive and spread on surfaces and in the air. But the data gathered so far, including from a study in France, may be confusing for some Americans who hope that outdoor, summer activities in the heat and the sunshine might be enough to halt the spread of the coronavirus (AccuWeather). The conditions associated with summer won’t eradicate the coronavirus, but could help slow its spread. On Thursday, researcher William Bryan, science and technology adviser at the Department of Homeland Security, joined Trump on Thursday to describe federal laboratory “emerging results” since February suggesting that UV sunlight, high temperatures and humidity hasten the decay of COVID-19 on solid surfaces and in aerosol droplets in the air, potentially reducing transmissibility. 

We know that summer-like conditions are going to create an environment where the transmission can be decreased, and that’s an opportunity for us to get ahead,” Bryan said, stressing that people should continue to heed recommendations for social distancing, frequent hand-washing and face-coverings in public, as well as precautions for seniors and other at-risk groups.

Nuclear energy: The administration on Thursday outlined a vision for nuclear energy that would boost uranium mining, a move that could have serious consequences for land just beyond the Grand Canyon (The Hill).

Children still need to see pediatricians: Parents, fearful of following up on wellness visits for their children and newborns because of COVID-19, are avoiding doctor’s offices and schedules for vaccinations. Public health experts see this as a worrisome trend. Parents should make appointments and help their children without delay (The New York Times). 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally …   Sports fans rejoiced last night as the NFL held the first round of the most anticipated draft in modern history, even during the ongoing pandemic. Among those paying attention were some of our readers, who aced yesterday’s Morning Report quiz. 

As some teams look to get an A+ draft grade this weekend, here are the quiz masters who went 4/4 and scored with their NFL draft trivia: Ki Harvey, WJ Haines, Rich Davis, Heather Champion, Stewart Baker, Patrick Kavanagh, Donna Minter, Joel Brill, Bob Irvin, Luther Berg, Mark Rubin, John Donato, Michael Palermo, Joan Domingues, and finally, the OG Al Weaver. 

They knew that six quarterbacks were taken ahead of Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL draft; sage experts did not foresee that Brady would help win a record six Super Bowl titles. 

Before the NFL went fully virtual for this weekend’s draft, Las Vegas was scheduled to host a draft event with hundreds of thousands of attendees. 

Spygate was the scandal that forced the New England Patriots to lose a first round pick.

Lastly, Football Hall of Famer John Elway (seen below) forced a trade in 1983 from the Baltimore Colts to the Denver Broncos when he refused to play for the Colts and said he would pursue a career in baseball with the New York Yankees, a bluff.