Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF, and hello May! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 54,877. Tuesday, 56,253. Wednesday, 58,355. Thursday, 60,999. Friday, 63,019.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Of partisan fights and follies, or why Democrats should follow Manchin, not Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that House Democrats support nearly $1 trillion in federal aid for states and cities in Congress’s next legislative effort to help the nation weather the COVID-19 crisis.
CARES Act 2, as the House measure is called, is also expected to include hundreds of billions of dollars more to help workers, businesses and families weather the crisis. Overall, the legislation could end up rivaling the size and scope of the first CARES package that was signed into law in late March.
"We're not going to be able to cover all of it, but to the extent that we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that's our goal," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday (The Hill).
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill MORE (R-Texas) reacted to Pelosi’s funding ask shortly after her comments, telling reporters that $1 trillion for state and local governments is “a pretty outrageous number” (The Hill).
Pelosi made the comments as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle jockey in what have already become contentious negotiations. In recent days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ky.) has indicated that he could support funding increases for state and local governments, but with strings attached.
The Kentucky Republican has said over the course of this week that he will not allow infrastructure spending to be included in the next coronavirus package, arguing that it is “unrelated” to the virus. McConnell also said that any legislation also must include provisions giving liability protection to businesses and other entities.
Politico: Capitol physician says Senate lacks capacity to test all senators.
With legislative jostling enveloping Capitol Hill, President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE is expected to leave the White House next week to resume travel after largely staying put at the White House since the pandemic started.
"I think I’m going to Arizona next week, and we look forward to that," he told reporters during a roundtable with business leaders. "And I'm going to, I hope, Ohio very soon. … And we’re going to start to move around, and hopefully in the not too distant future we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other" (The Hill).
The White House announced shortly after that Trump will visit Phoenix on May 5 to tour a Honeywell aerospace facility, which has expanded its production to meet demand for N95 masks needed for health care workers to deal with COVID-19. There are no further details about a potential Ohio trip.
The New York Times: Ohio’s GOP governor splits from Trump, and rises in popularity.
Trump isn’t the only one who will be traveling as Vice President Pence is expected to continue making more trips. This week alone, Pence was in Indiana to tour a General Motors plant on Thursday, and in Minneapolis to visit the Mayo Clinic on Wednesday (The Hill).
Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told reporters aboard Air Force 2 that the vice president will resume traveling for political events in the near future, adding the president and Pence “look forward to doing that soon.”
Trump’s last political rally took place on March 2, Super Tuesday, in Charlotte. On that day, the president told reporters when asked if campaign rallies were a good idea during the COVID-19 emergency, “I think it’s very safe” (The Hill).
With the two eager to venture out of Washington again, a challenging political landscape for the incumbent president could be emerging in some rural areas. As Reid Wilson reports, for the first time last week, rural counties that are experiencing COVID-19 infections included those that in 2016 voted in pluralities for Trump.
The further spread of the virus into smaller communities means it is beginning to affect more areas that Trump won in 2016. Trump won more than two-thirds of the 901 counties that have reached high prevalence status since March 30. Those Trump counties are most significantly concentrated in southern red states, though there are a substantial number in swing states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas.
Anthony FauciAnthony Fauci'Highest priority' is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, Fauci says Sunday shows - Boosters in the spotlight Fauci: Data for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson booster shots 'a few weeks' out MORE, the National Institutes of Health immunologist, said during an NBC News “Today” interview on Thursday that he believes it is “doable” as an “aspirational goal” by January to have millions of doses of an as-yet undiscovered COVID-19 vaccine, which would be roughly a year from the first human infections discovered in China. Fauci has long said it would take a year to 18 months to discover, approve and manufacture a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, although multiple trials around the world are testing promising possibilities at a rapid pace (NPR).
COVID-19 occurred in nature and is not genetically modified, the U.S. intelligence community said Thursday in a statement HERE. An investigation is ongoing and it remains unknown if the pathogen accidentally emerged from a Wuhan lab. The lab has denied that COVID-19 is genetically linked to any of the coronaviruses it has isolated and studied (The Hill).
Trump, who blames China for not being immediately transparent about the deadly virus, says he’s seen evidence linking COVID-19 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Scientists and investigators looking for genetic fingerprints say there is no definitive link to the lab or Chinese research, for instance with horseshoe bats. Trump told reporters he could not discuss his confidence in information to which he referred because an investigation is ongoing (The Hill).
Administration officials are preparing potential retaliatory actions against China as Trump fumes about an epidemic in Wuhan that became a pandemic, infecting more than 3 million people over four months. The president has enlarged his hostility toward China into a reelection campaign theme (The Washington Post).
More U.S. airlines are making masks mandatory for their passengers. On Thursday, American, Delta, Frontier and United announced that starting this month, passengers will be required to wear masks or facial coverings when they fly. The shift comes after JetBlue announced a similar policy Monday. Frontier Airlines said travelers also will have to fill out a health declaration form before check-in (The Washington Post).
Meanwhile, Pence, who caused a stir when he visited the Mayo Clinic this week without wearing a mandatory medical mask while meeting with doctors and patients, on Thursday donned a mask to tour a General Motors plant in Indiana.
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LEADING THE DAY
STATE WATCH: The U.S. economy is in shambles. Governors are petrified that more lives lost to COVID-19 will result from lifting restrictions too soon. And many Americans take sides along starkly partisan lines when it comes to economic choices weighed against a deadly virus — if they are lucky enough to have the option to return to work.
> Iowa, Oklahoma: These two and other Republican-led states that will soon reopen during the coronavirus emergency have issued early warnings to workers who say they’re worried about potential infection: Return to your jobs or risk losing unemployment benefits. In Iowa, for example, state officials posted a public call for companies to report if an “employee refuses to return to work.” For some states, the concern is that residents who are offered their old jobs back simply may not accept them, choosing instead to continue tapping historically generous unemployment aid (The Washington Post).
Trump on Thursday suggested the GOP anxiety about incentivizing unemployment is overblown. “It’s short term and we’re being very generous with people who lost their job so it’s not the biggest problem I’ve ever heard,” he said.
> New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy (D) visited Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday and heaped praise on the federal government for its assistance to his state during the pandemic, but he told the president that New Jersey needs substantial federal aid to move forward. Murphy has extended stay-at-home orders indefinitely. "The financial assistance we need, and we need a significant amount, this is a big hit and this is somewhere, in New Jersey alone could be $20-30 billion.This is to allow us to keep firefighters, teachers, police, EMS on the payroll serving the communities in their hour of need. That's something we feel strongly about," Murphy told Trump (CBS News).
> Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Thursday extended her state’s emergency and disaster declarations that were set to expire today through May 28. The governor, who is seen as a potential vice presidential candidate, is in a clash with her state’s GOP legislature, which wants Michigan reopened for business. Republicans want to sue Whitmer for using her executive powers to issue emergency edicts, which include the stay-at-home order she issued in March as coronavirus outbreaks took hold in her state (The Detroit Free Press).
> New York: Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoZeldin says he's in remission after treatment for leukemia Letitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight MORE (D) announced a plan in which New York City subway stops and cars will close daily from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. beginning May 7 to allow for disinfecting and cleaning to safeguard commuters and passengers exposed to the coronavirus (The New York Times).
> Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) overrode local coronavirus lockdown orders and Texas will begin the process of reopening restaurants and other stores today. The Lone Star State is increasingly divided between Democratic cities and Republican rural areas when it comes to plans to resume commercial activities (The Hill). The move to reopen comes as Texas reported its largest single-day death toll from the virus and the largest single-day rise in infections (Houston Chronicle). The state has not met the voluntary criteria described by the White House for safe phased-in restarts.
> Economic surge? Economists believe states from Georgia to Texas that are trying to end economic pain during the coronavirus crisis with rapid reopenings may not achieve the hoped-for economic gains (The Hill).
> Polling: Niall Stanage reports that as some states begin to open for business, polls show overwhelming public support for continuing restrictions to protect health. The surveys are somewhat surprising given the grave economic impacts of the lockdown, but the findings underscore the evolving challenges faced by governors and the president. Governors in all 50 states have earned higher marks than Trump during the pandemic, according to a sweeping new survey of more than 22,000 voters (The Hill).
> Crossing state lines: Some officials have asked whether states should close their borders to prevent the virus from spreading, arguing it would isolate hot spots and protect states. Objections have focused on the politics and constitutional issues tied to such a proposal, not to mention the logistical nightmares (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
MORE CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE is finally expected to directly address allegations of sexual assault this morning.
Biden will speak with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning to address the allegation from Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer who has accused him of sexual assault in 1993 during an encounter on Capitol Hill. The former vice president has denied the allegation, but until now has not answered any questions about it.
In recent days, the drumbeat has grown for Biden to confront questions about Reade’s allegation. A pair of top surrogates — Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees The FBI comes up empty-handed in its search for a Jan. 6 plot MORE (D-N.Y.) and Stacey Abrams — have said that they believe Biden’s denial.
On Thursday, the president said that Biden should respond, adding that they “could be false accusations,” pointing to allegations he has denied about his own behavior with women, and accusations detailed during the nomination of Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRepublicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Why isn't Harris leading the charge against the Texas abortion law? MORE before his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know exactly. I think he should respond,” Trump told reporters at an event in the East Room. “It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times.”
Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Pelosi says she remains “satisfied” with Biden’s response to sexual assault allegation, praises his “integrity.”
The Hill: Team Biden talks about getting their candidate out of the house.
Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine: Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (I-Mich.) wants to destroy the system that created Trump.
The Associated Press: “Everyone’s watching”: Biden’s VP audition process begins.
> Voting: The ongoing battle over mail-in voting is zeroing in on an unfamiliar target: the U.S. Postal Service.
The president issued a threat earlier this month to block emergency assistance for the Postal Service if it did not increase prices to cover a growing hole in its budget.
While he reversed course late last week, saying that he will “never let our Post Office fail,” The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes (in a story that will appear later today) that his earlier remarks nevertheless raised alarm among state and federal officials and voting rights advocates, who see the president’s warnings to the Postal Service as implicitly linked to the 2020 elections. Should the agency turn to layoffs or service reductions to cut costs, they argue, mail-in voting could be disrupted and millions of voters could be disenfranchised.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
An urgent need to reopen medical care for all, by Dr. William Haseltine of ACCESS Health International, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Wcfpk4
Bill Gates is wrong. China’s coronavirus coverup is not a “distraction,” by Josh Rogin, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/35mdH3O
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene a pro forma session at noon.
The Senate will meet on Monday at 3 p.m. to begin consideration of the nomination of Robert Feitel to be inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The president will have lunch with the vice president at 12:30 p.m. At 4:15, Trump participates in a Blue Room ceremony to recognize “hard work, heroism and hope.” The president will depart for Camp David at 5 p.m. and arrive there 35 minutes later.
Fox News Channel is accepting questions from the public for possible use during a town hall Q&A with Trump to be broadcast on Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. Send video questions to TownHall@FoxNews.com. Information is HERE. People can also submit questions ahead of the program to the network’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrVirginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE at noon today headlines a nationwide public Q&A session about efforts to protect Americans from fraud, price gouging, hoarding and other violations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tweet questions to #AskAGBarr or check out how to submit questions HERE. Report COVID-19-related alleged scams to the Justice Department via Facebook HERE.
The Federalist Society’s Executive Branch Review Conference, which today concludes a week of virtual programming, features a teleforum discussion at 12:30 p.m. about COVID-19 legal liability issues with Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr and Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform. Legal liability is a hot topic on Capitol Hill and among businesses that plan to reopen with a return of employees to workplaces. Information is HERE.
➔ COVID-19 & International: In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that his country is “past the peak” of the COVID-19 epidemic there. He plans to outline Great Britain’s lockdown exit strategy next week (Bloomberg News). … Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has contracted COVID-19, according to The Moscow Times (The Hill).
➔ Justice: A memo from the attorney general this week directed U.S. prosecutors to guard against civil liberties violations amid pandemic-related restrictions and singled out religious, speech and economic rights. The directive is a possible road map for future Justice Department interventions (The Hill).
➔ Sports: For the first time, the Little League World Series was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Little League International announced on Thursday that the annual tournament featuring some of the best 11- and 12-year-old ballplayers was nixed, along with regional tournaments, though it is slated to return next year. The tournament had been held every year since its inception in 1947 (ESPN).
➔ Museums in distress: The Washington Post reports big news in the art world: Museums sitting on valued collections but struggling to survive financially during the COVID-19 pandemic may sell works to raise cash during a temporary emergency period without public shaming or punishment by the powerful Association of Art Museum Directors. “There’s no doubt: This represents a major departure, and a recognition that many art museums are in financial free fall,” according to the Post’s art critic, Sebastian Smee.
And finally … Bravo to movie buffs and Morning Report Quiz Masters! The “Saturday Night Live” depiction by Brad Pitt of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Fauci got us thinking about actors who starred as cinematic scientists.
Puzzle champions this week: Larry Keane, Daniel Bachhuber, Stephen De Luca, Patrick Kavanagh, Candi Cee, Rich Davis, D. Jason McKitrick, John H. van Santen, B Sparks, Jack Barshay, Charity Frasier, William Chittam, Margaret Gainer, Laura Silver, Stewart Baker, Tim Aiken, Lori Cowdrey Benso, Donna Nackers, Randall S. Patrick, Mike Roberts, Emily Arsen, Paul Blumstein, Richard Beal, Luther Berg, Jesse Ungard and Heather Champion.
They knew that Gene Wilder played a young Dr. Frankenstein and turned two words — “It’s alive!” — into a comic classic.
Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman wore bulky personal protective equipment and got all the snappy dialogue in the 1995 film “Outbreak.” His character, Army virologist Col. Sam Daniels, was assigned to stop a lethal virus when it threatened a California town.
In the film “Hidden Figures,” Octavia Spencer starred as real-life mathematician Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, a pathbreaker recruited by NASA during the space race and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously last year.
Fictional Army virologist Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, wanders an empty, post-apocalyptic New York City by day to capture a few night-crawling zombie-mutants he turns into lab specimens as he searches for a cure.