The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Americans venture out as officials pin future on vaccine
Presented by Facebook
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 89,564.
“Passion has helped us but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1838, age 28
Americans are on the move again.
Nearly all states that imposed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions to fight the pandemic have begun to ease them, and some governors say it’s a mighty challenge to find the right balance between economic well-being and public health risks (The New York Times).
Governors and other officials stress the importance of social distancing and mask wearing as states reopen, although enforcing such advice is difficult. Officials largely rely on people to self-regulate their adaptations to the coronavirus, including in New York City, where the outbreak since March has killed more than 28,000 people (The Washington Post).
Apple search data suggests people’s mobility in some cities may be nearing pre-coronavirus levels, including in Modesto, Calif.; St. Louis; Colorado Springs, Co.; and Jacksonville, Fla. (NBC News).
This is the kind of reawakening that President Trump cheers and that many public health experts, economists, business leaders and state officials eye with trepidation. Many believe COVID-19 may mow through the country in waves, partly because more commercial activity means more accessible human targets for the coronavirus. It’s why many predict that recovery across continents can take root only after there’s a cure.
Until then, the crowds of Americans strolling on New Jersey boardwalks this weekend (pictured above), biking and jogging in Central Park, drinking and dining in bars and restaurants in New Orleans, and clustering shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate in California will inevitably lead to more infections, more hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, interviewed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, said a full economic recovery may not happen without a vaccine (CNBC).
The president, who returned to the White House on Sunday from Camp David after discussions with some House GOP defenders hours later called into NBC’s live broadcast of a charity golf tournament, TaylorMade Driving Relief.
“We’re looking at vaccines, we’re looking at cures and we are very, very far down the line,” Trump said, adding, “And I think that’s not going to be in the very distant future. But even before that, I think we’ll be back to normal.”
The president is a relentless advocate for employees to return to work, for children to return to classrooms, and for amateur and professional sports to resume, eventually with fans looking on. “We miss sports. We need sports in terms of the psyche, the psyche of our country,” he added on Sunday.
The Hill: Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, interviewed on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said any widely available coronavirus vaccine is “more likely a 2021 event” than a realistic breakthrough this year.
The Hill: In the global race to discover an effective vaccine, who gets it first?
Trump also is busy settling old scores and running for reelection. Over the weekend, he assailed former President Obama, who has criticized the administration’s management during the pandemic, describing the 44th president as “grossly incompetent.”
NPR: Trump wants fight with Obama — “Careful what you wish for”?
Trump also engineered what has become a weekly eruption over federal inspector generals, the quasi-independent watchdogs working inside many agencies and departments and held in suspicion by the president as disloyal “spies.”
On Friday, he booted Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general (IG), who had been investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a political appointee to perform personal tasks (The Associated Press and The New York Times). Before Linick, Trump jettisoned Health and Human Services IG Christi Grimm, who publicly warned about “widespread” shortages of COVID-19 medical supplies; Pentagon IG Glenn Fine, Pentagon IG, who oversaw the first $2 trillion in coronavirus emergency relief; and Michael Atkinson, IG for the intelligence community, who informed Congress about a whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to see oversight hearings to respond to the slow-motion purge, understanding that the president has broad authority to hire and fire at will.
The Associated Press: Trump’s emergency powers worry some senators and legal experts. Ten senators have asked the administration for specific documents that could describe how sweeping Trump believes his emergency powers are.
Meanwhile, Capitol Hill is expected to decelerate this week after the House passed its $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday, as the legislation will go nowhere in the Senate and negotiations on a bipartisan bill remain far off. Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged lawmakers to come together to pass a new relief package sooner rather than later despite the GOP’s decision to hit the “pause” button on talks.
“Time is of the essence,” Pelosi said Sunday in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We cannot take a pause” (The Hill).
The Senate is set to deal with nominations, with a number of votes teed up throughout the week on judicial nominees before the chamber breaks for Memorial Day. In the House, lawmakers are not expected to return to Washington until May 27 or 28 to vote on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization, with the schedule up in the air beyond then (The Hill).
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. expected to revise small-business aid program.
The Hill: The Sunday shows: Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro knocks Obama scientist whistleblower, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: It is rare for a U.S. presidential candidate to try to unseat an incumbent with the implicit suggestion that victory might be for a single term. Such a pact with voters, implied or inferred, amplifies a candidate’s lame-duckness and elevates the national and international interest in the November choice as well as prospects after 2024. Age for Joe Biden, who will be 78 on Inauguration Day, amplifies his running mate dilemma. Governing experience is a major consideration, for obvious reasons. National political incandescence is another.
Late last year, the former vice president denied a Politico report that he had signaled to aides that he would not seek reelection. “I don’t have plans on one term,” Biden told reporters on the campaign trail in early December. “I’m not even there yet.” A week later during a primary debate in Los Angeles as he worked to clear the field to become the Democratic nominee, Biden refused to say he’d seek a second term, should he be his party’s standard bearer and go on to defeat Trump in November.
“No, I’m not willing to commit one way or another,” he said. “I’m not even elected to one term yet, and let’s see where we are. Let’s see what happens.”
The Associated Press: Biden’s VP search puts the spotlight on how long he’ll serve.
The Washington Post: Stacey Abrams’s public push for a veep slot complicates Biden’s search.
Politico: Progressives thought they’d overtaken the Democratic Party. Now they’re in despair.
With less than six months until Election Day, some Democrats worry that Biden is struggling to define himself as the president continues to escalate his attacks against the former vice president’s White House bid.
As Amie Parnes reports, some party strategists have worried for months that Trump has a significant advantage over Biden given his ability to control the airwaves and wield the bully pulpit to his advantage as the pandemic keeps Biden confined to his Delaware home. The fears came to a head again late last week as the Trump campaign released a number of ads on social media going after Biden’s age and fitness to serve as commander in chief. One biting message: “geriatric mental health is no laughing matter.”
“Hard to think of a president who won after letting their opponent do all the talking,” said Philippe Reines, the longtime adviser and spokesman to Hillary Clinton, taking a swipe at Biden’s campaign, which has relied on media interviews and some virtual “rallies” conducted from the candidate’s Delaware basement. “Yes, he was vice president. Yes, his approval numbers are high. No, you can’t glide to November on that alone.”
Karen Tumulty: It is far too early for Democrats to panic over Biden.
The Washington Post: Faced with a Trumpian barrage of attacks, Biden chooses to look the other way.
The Hill: Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned.
> House races: Republicans off all stripes are going all out to unseat Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and are rallying to the side of one of his primary challenges as they push to rid the GOP of King after years of incendiary comments.
A number of lawmakers and national groups are pushing for state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) to take down King, giving him considerable financial backing to put him over the top in the June 2 primary contest. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors and the Defending Main Street super PAC are spending heavily in favor of Feenstra, who also has received key endorsements from the National Right to Life Committee and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
As Jonathan Easley writes, Feenstra’s internal polling shows he’s within the margin of error, having built a commanding financial lead over King. Republicans also hope Feenstra wins in order to boost the reelection chances of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who will rely on rural voters in places like Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
The race garnered more spotlight after King said last week that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) promised he would back his effort to regain committee assignments after they were stripped last year. McCarthy denied that claim, with Republicans on the Steering Committee vowing that King would not reclaim what he lost either this year or next.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
INTERNATIONAL: A pair of European leaders warned over the weekend that a vaccine may never be developed as economies begin to reopen across the continent despite fears of new infections and deaths.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned on Saturday that despite work across the globe to create a vaccine, it may never arrive. The comments come as Italy celebrates the revival of activity at bars, restaurants and beaches in one of the hardest hit nations, with Conte arguing that his country “cannot afford” to wait until a vaccine is available (The Associated Press).
”We are facing a calculated risk, in the awareness … that the epidemiological curve could go back up,” Conte said. “We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch.” Conte added that Italy could “not afford” to wait until a vaccine was developed.
In the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed Conte, writing on Sunday that a vaccine “might not come to fruition” as the nation takes small steps toward reopening.
“I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday. “There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition.”
“Despite these efforts, we have to acknowledge we may need to live with this virus for some time to come,” Johnson added. The PM also told lawmakers on Saturday that his hope is to return Great Britain to “near-normality” by the summer (Daily Mail).
Reuters: UK coronavirus death toll rises by 170, lowest increase since March.
> India: The Indian government announced on Sunday an extension of the national lockdown until May 31 as large parts of the nation’s economy remain closed.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, most public places, including schools, places of worship and restaurants, remain closed except in areas with low numbers of cases, while all large gatherings remain outlawed, as the nation has more than 95,000 confirmed cases of the virus (Reuters).
Bloomberg News: $277 Billion package may not give immediate boost to India.
> Israel: The Israeli parliament approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new unity government on Sunday as the nation finally moved past more than a year of a standoff between him and Benny Gantz, who is set to become defense minister before ultimately becoming the PM (Reuters).
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Coronavirus will stretch, not break, global supply chains, by David Fickling, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3bIbcu1
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet in a pro forma session Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Scott Rash to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Arizona.
The president will host a roundtable with restaurant executives and industry leaders at 2 p.m. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will also participate in a video teleconference with governors at 4 p.m. to discuss responses to the coronavirus.
Vice President Pence will participate in the president’s video teleconference with governors conducted from the White House Situation Room, which means he and Trump will be in a relatively small workspace together for a period of time rather than distanced as a precaution.
Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christoper Wray will hold a joint press conference at 11 a.m. today to talk about the criminal investigation into the Dec. 6 shootings at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, which killed three members of the military and wounded eight others. The shooter, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student from Saudi Arabia, was killed at the scene by law enforcement on Dec. 6. The government described it as a terror attack, and on Feb. 2, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. Following the shooting, the government expelled 21 Saudi military trainees, including 12 from the Pensacola air station.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization holds a virtual ministerial meeting of its decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA) today and Tuesday. The tele-gathering is expected to be overshadowed by U.S. accusations against WHO and China (The New York Times).
INVITATION to The Hill’s national virtual summit on Thursday at 11 a.m., “Advancing the American Economy,” with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to discuss his economic outlook. Editor-in-chief Bob Cusack interviews the secretary, followed by an afternoon of discussions with leading CEOs and national health experts. Additional speakers to be announced. Register Now!
INVITATION to The Hill’s Virtually Live event on Wednesday at 1 p.m., “The Vir[tech]ual World Ahead”: Explore lessons from our new digital reality, including increased reliance on telecommunication networks and an accelerated digitalization of industries. How should policymakers approach coverage, access, affordability and capacity? Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and more will talk with editor-at-large Steve Clemons. RSVP today!
➔ First Person: Oral histories during the pandemic are haunting, week after week:
- Paolo Pellegrin, conflict photographer, “Turning the Camera from War to Family,” The New York Times Magazine;
- Philip Montgomery, photojournalist, “Fear, Trauma, Hope and Calm,” The New York Times Magazine;
- Johnny Rivero, 57, “But What if They Run Out?”, talking about his first time seeking food from a charity, The Washington Post;
- Debra Hudmon, 56, ICU nurse in Alabama, “We’ll All be Different Because of This,” The Auburn Plainsman oral history reporting series.
➔ News Media: Ben Smith, newly hired media columnist at The New York Times, criticizes the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow (and with it, The New Yorker), arguing “shakiness” in his reporting for the magazine and in Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill”: “He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove” (Farrow and The New Yorker editor David Remnick are quoted in Smith’s column defending the reporting).
➔ National Security: The Pentagon is hunkering down to live with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. Because senior defense officials acknowledge COVID-19 will be an obstacle at least until a vaccine is developed, the U.S. military is preparing for a “new abnormal” in which some activities ramp back up. “We are preparing for a second wave and maybe more. We don’t know what the trajectory of this virus will be,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said recently. “We are preparing for the long haul. … So my view has been that we’ll be at this for a number of months, at least until we get a vaccine” (The Hill). … Thirteen sick U.S. sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt seemed to recover from COVID-19 and then tested positive again, the Navy said on Sunday (The New York Times).
➔ Dreaming of Italy (after contagion): The Associated Press offers a photographic tour of some of Italy’s grandest luxury hotels, now nearly empty but magnificent and expectant. For those who fantasize about vacationing in the Audrey Hepburn Suite at the Hotel Hassler in Rome or at Lake Como, luxuriating in a bathtub at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, this virtual visit is for you.
➔ Sports: Two major sporting associations made their return over the weekend. In the U.S., NASCAR returned to the track as drivers raced at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina for the Real Heroes 400 -— the first of eight races scheduled to take place over the next month. Kevin Harvick took home the race. In Germany, the Bundesliga held its first weekend of matches since the virus postponed the season by more than two months. The nine league matches were held without fans and will be for the remainder of the season (ESPN). … The Preakness Stakes, initially scheduled to take place over the weekend, has been rescheduled for Oct. 3. The annual Triple Crown race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore is slated to take place less than a month after the Kentucky Derby, which was rescheduled for Sept. 5 (NBC Sports).
And finally … What is destiny? When a London heart surgeon was recently hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia, he received treatment from a friend, Shakil Rahman, a respiratory consultant whose life he had saved 20 years before. The surgeon recovered.
“He was admitted by me, quite profoundly ill with COVID-19 pneumonia,” Rahman said, describing cardiothoracic surgeon Venkatachalam Chandrasekaran as an “extremely kind doctor, a very well-known man, a heart surgeon with incredibly gifted hands” (Sky News).