The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin, Powell: Economy may need more boost; Trump defends malaria drug

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday. 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, 89,564. Tuesday, 90,369. Wednesday, 91,938.



The nation’s two leading policymakers responsible for steering the U.S. economy through unprecedented crises agreed on three stark predictions Tuesday: U.S. unemployment is broad-based and will be worse by June; the longer people are unemployed, the more damaging it will be for workers and for the U.S. economy long term; and Congress, the White House and the Federal Reserve may need to do more, and soon.

 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China MORE and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told senators during a hearing focused on the first $2.2 trillion COVID-19 rescue law enacted in March that Congress’s legislative responses are making a difference, along with central bank interventions.

 

“I know there's been a lot of questions as to whether the Treasury is willing to take risk. With that, I would say the answer is absolutely yes,” Mnuchin said.

 

The Hill: Senators press Mnuchin, Powell over the scope of enacted coronavirus bailouts.

 

Mnuchin, following the lead set by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE a month ago, focused on swiftly ending state lockdowns and reviving commercial activity, warning of “permanent damage” to the economy if states wait too long (The New York Times). Powell said easing coronavirus restrictions must happen in a way that builds confidence before businesses and workers are willing to resume basic activities without fear of COVID-19 infection (The Hill).

 

Mnuchin met privately Tuesday morning with GOP House and Senate leaders, and Trump later traveled to the Capitol to deliver a pep talk to Senate Republicans. The president focused on the November elections, urging Republicans to be “tough” on Democrats and to unify as a party (The Hill).

 

GOP senators are not of like mind that there will be another bipartisan coronavirus recovery bill, although Mnuchin repeatedly said the administration is ready to negotiate and that Trump is open to signing another bill. Tax cuts for “middle-class families” during the crisis is one idea Mnuchin backed under questioning from Senate Banking Committee member Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (R-N.C.).

 

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), who also sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, predicted there is less than a 50 percent chance of another bipartisan measure after four major bills cleared both chambers. He objected to a process in which the White House and leaders crafted relief legislation unleashing trillions of dollars, leaving many lawmakers out of the process until their votes were needed. Mnuchin said the process was not and will not be what Kennedy described.

 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.), said during a Tuesday interview on CNBC that the next bill will “not pass without” liability protection for businesses, adding that he is willing to consider more for states than the $750 billion he said was enacted thus far. McCarthy said additional help should focus on counties and cities rather than state budgets to “make sure it’s just about COVID.”

 

Partisan disagreements are sharp about who still needs Washington’s help and how best to provide assistance to states, “essential” public employees, and small and medium-sized businesses.

 

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio) and Mnuchin had a testy exchange when the top Democrat on the Banking Committee asked whether people were being nudged to return to work too soon as a way to boost financial markets. “How many workers should give their lives to increase the [gross domestic product] or the Dow Jones by 1,000 points?” Brown asked.

 

No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair,” Mnuchin replied (The Hill).

 

Reuters: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok MORE (R-Ky.) says he’s still mulling whether additional COVID-19 relief will be needed.

 

CNBC: “We are fully prepared to take losses” on coronavirus bailouts, Mnuchin says.

 

Bloomberg News: Powell dodges senators’ efforts to get him to take sides on aid.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Next wave of coronavirus stimulus payments hinges on debate over reopening economy.

 

 

 



 

A new report from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable looks at how small and medium-sized businesses are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 — and what they need on the road to recovery.

Go further: Read the full report.



LEADING THE DAY

OTHER CORONAVIRUS RESPONSES: The president on Tuesday offered a defense of his use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure, calling it an “individual decision” after weeks of his promotion of the drug as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

 

"I think it gives you an additional level of safety," Trump told reporters after attending a Senate GOP lunch. "But you can ask many doctors who are in favor of it. Many front-line workers won’t go there unless they have the hydroxy" (The Hill).

 

The president made the revelation about his use of the drug on Monday despite warnings that it can cause heart problems. It also brought on critical remarks from political opponents, headlined by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.) saying on Monday night that Trump shouldn’t take hydroxychloroquine due to his age and weight group, which she labeled “morbidly obese.” Trump responded in kind on Tuesday, calling Pelosi a “sick woman” who has “a lot of mental problems.”

 

The latest back-and-forth between the party leaders offers a fresh representation of how poor their relationship is these days. However, as Cristina Marcos writes, it also comes at a crucial time as lawmakers debate the way forward on the next coronavirus relief package. 

 

 

 

 

Vice President Pence is not taking the drug, although he was exposed to his press secretary, who tested positive for COVID-19 this month. Pence told reporters on Tuesday that his physician has not recommended he take hydroxychloroquine, adding, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise” (The Hill).

 

CNBC: Food and Drug Administration softens public warning on hydroxychloroquine after Trump says he has been taking the malaria drug. 

 

The Kansas City Star: Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallBollier raises .7 million in second quarter in Kansas Senate race Club for Growth unleashes financial juggernaut for 2020 races Deadline for Kansas Senate race passes without Pompeo filing MORE (R-Kan.), a physician who is running for a Senate seat, is “relieved” Trump is taking the drug and says he and his family are also taking the medication as a preventative for COVID-19.

 

> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told The Hill’s Steve Clemons in a video interview on Tuesday that the United States must increase public health infrastructure before the fall, when COVID-19 and the flu will pose dual risks. Redfield says the United States needs thousands more contact tracers (The Hill).

 

“This fall, it’s going to be coronavirus and flu,” he said. “What we can do is get the American public to a point where they’ll embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.” Redfield noted that fewer than 50 percent of Americans get flu shots annually.

 

> Death toll: A new study indicates that even if Americans adhere to current social distancing guidelines for months, the U.S. death toll, which is now near 92,000 with 1.5 cases of infection reported, will likely triple by the end of the year due to the coronavirus. 

 

The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington's School of Pharmacy, found that 1.3 percent of those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms die. As Reid Wilson writes, the infection fatality rate of the coronavirus is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.

 

“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” said Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study.

 

If the infection fatality rate stands, with the virus spreading even before most states open their economies and relax social distancing restrictions, COVID-19 could claim between 350,000 and 1.2 million American lives by the end of this year, the study found.

 

Bloomberg News: COVID-19 patients testing positive after recovery aren’t infectious, study shows.

 

The Hill: Advocates say state reopenings put nursing homes at risk.

 

> Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) lifted the state’s stay-at-home on Tuesday, replacing it with an “Urgent Health Advisory,” in one of the final steps toward the state reopening on a larger scale. 

 

DeWine cut back on some restrictions the state had initially imposed, including a two-week quarantine period for those entering the state. However, the ban on mass gatherings and restrictions on bars and restaurants remain in place (Cleveland.com).

 

Elsewhere, some states and officials are accused of fudging or bungling COVID-19 testing data in an effort to improve the overall disease picture before ending stay-at-home orders (The Associated Press).

 

***

 

MORE IN CONGRESS: The Senate Intelligence Committee greenlighted Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeIn Russian bounty debate, once again this administration lacks intelligence Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Former Trump intelligence officials say they had trouble briefing him on Russia: report MORE’s (R-Texas) nomination to serve as director of national intelligence on Tuesday, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. The committee vote was along party lines, 8-7. According to a Senate aide, a confirmation vote has not been scheduled yet. 

 

This is the second time Ratcliffe (pictured below) has been nominated for the position, after he withdrew from consideration initially last summer. In his confirmation hearing last week, Ratcliffe made a concerted effort to pitch himself as an impartial head of the intelligence community rather than as a Trump loyalist (The Hill). 

 

The Hill: Tensions flare over GOP's Obama probes.

 

 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Democrats are almost uniformly behind former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE as the party’s standard-bearer and presumptive nominee in November. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to the debate surrounding who his running mate should be as Democrats and progressives root for their preferred candidate. 

 

The Hill’s Scott Wong has the latest as House Democrats clamor for who they believe would be the right choice for Biden and the party writ large. Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelFormer cop Demings faces progressive pushback in veepstakes Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes MORE (D-Fla.), co-chairwoman of the Women’s Caucus, is pushing for Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP Democrats seize on Florida pandemic response ahead of general election MORE (D-Fla.), her home-state colleague, for the position. Meanwhile, others, including Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Democrats build capital with big primary wins Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (D-N.Y.), believe someone such as Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe robbing of a wildlife refuge in Nevada Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Klobuchar withdraws from Biden VP contention MORE (D-Nev.), Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Democrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate MORE (D-Texas) or Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE (D-Calif.) could be what the doctor ordered. 

 

Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayGOP House candidate publishes 23-page report claiming George Floyd death was deepfake video Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen MORE (D-Mo.) believes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan would help the party win the all-important swing state, while other lawmakers have made calls for Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (D-Mass.) or Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Congress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Senate Democrats demand to see copies of Trump's intelligence briefings on Russian bounties MORE (D-Ill.).

 

The bottom line: Opinions are all over the map among top Democrats, and with a choice not expected until July in all likelihood, the commentary will grow louder.

 

The Hill: Biden leads Trump by 6 points as voters sour on pandemic response: poll.

 

Mark Leibovich, The New York Times: The end of “who me? For VP?” politics.

 

In a virtual town hall on Wednesday night, Biden pledged that he would never fire an inspector general from the federal government, running counter to actions of the president after he fired a fourth individual from the position in a matter of months over the weekend. 

 

“Inspector generals were designed to make government honest. To keep it honest,” Biden said during an event hosted by Yahoo. “It’s a gigantic government. We have a thousand employees. It’s part of a troubling pattern since this whole covid crisis began.”

 

The former VP also fired back at Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech Lara Trump: Twitter no longer 'a platform for free speech' MORE over tweets shared in recent days accusing Biden of being a “pedophile.” The presumptive Democratic nominee called the remarks “sick.”

 

“But he is his father’s son,” Biden said. “Say it enough, like his father says, if you say it enough, people will believe it” (The Washington Post).



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

The Federal Reserve's everything bubble, by Desmond Lachman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/36pTWZH 

 

‘Obamagate’ backfires. Documents show Biden acted properly, by Marik von Rennenkampff, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3cNWcMD



 

We know it’s a challenging time for small businesses. Facebook’s Business Resource Hub offers resources to help you manage your business and support your customers and employees through the COVID-19 crisis.

Resources for businesses here.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene a pro forma session Friday at 11 a.m. The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing at 10:15 a.m. about COVID-19 infection risks to workers and efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal entities to protect millions of U.S. employees. Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. 

 

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of Anna Manasco to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold an oversight hearing at 10 a.m. to examine the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), featuring testimony from EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending MORE.

 

The president will hold a conference call in the Oval Office at 12:30 p.m. with members of the Hispanic community. Trump also plans to meet in person this afternoon with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D). 

 

Vice President Pence today flies to Orlando to meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida records more than 15,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, the highest single-day increase in any state Teachers union president casts doubt on schools reopening full-time DeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do the schools' MORE (R) and to deliver medical personal protective equipment to a nursing home. Pence will participate in a roundtable with Florida hospitality and tourism industry representatives. He returns to Washington this evening.

 

INVITATION to The Hill’s national virtual summit on Thursday at 11 a.m., “Advancing the American Economy,” with Mnuchin, who will discuss his economic outlook with Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response The Hill's 12:30 Report: Thousands expected for George Floyd's Houston visitation The Hill's Morning Report - Capitol Hill weighs action on racial justice as protests carry on MORE. The interview will be followed by discussions with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, lawmakers, leading CEOs and national health experts. Information and registration!   

 

INVITATION to The Hill’s Virtually Live event TODAY at 1 p.m., “The Vir[tech]tual World Ahead”: Explore lessons from a new digital reality, including an increased reliance on telecommunication networks and an accelerated digitalization of industries. How should policymakers approach coverage, access, affordability and capacity? Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Key impeachment witness retires | Duckworth presses for information | Subpanel advances defense measure | Democrats press for end to military transgender ban 116 House Democrats push for end to transgender military ban following Supreme Court ruling The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, GOP on defense as nationwide protests continue MORE (D-Wash.), a former software tech entrepreneur who spent a dozen years working at Microsoft; Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Michael O'Rielly and others will talk with The Hill’s Steve Clemons, editor-at-large. RSVP today

 

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report 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

 U.S. vs. World Health Organization: The president is threatening to permanently cut funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) within 30 days unless it commits to “major substantive improvements,” escalating a battle with the global health body over what he views as a subpar response to the outbreak and a friendly posture toward China. Health experts have warned of the adverse impact of cutting funding from the WHO, with the Lancet medical journal issuing a statement refuting his allegation that the global body ignored early reports about the spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan (The Hill). WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organization's role in the wake of Trump’s latest critique and indicated that he plans to continue in his position and battle the pandemic (Reuters). … Niall Stanage’s latest memo: Trump goes “America First” on virus.

 

 

 

 

Michigan flooding: “Catastrophic dam failures” along the Tittabawassee River in Midland County forced the ordered evacuation of 10,000 Michigan residents overnight. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on Tuesday night that downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced a serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant sits on the city's riverbank. "In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water," the governor said. (CBS News). Video of dam breaking is HERE.

 

Lobbying and tax breaks: In the House Democrats’ just-passed relief measure (which will not become law), lawmakers sought to roll back two controversial tax provisions enacted in March as part of the COVID-19 response in the CARES Act. Lobbyists for real estate investors and hedge funds in March secured two tax changes amounting to a $160 billion windfall for the wealthiest Americans. Time reports how the beneficial provisions worked their way into the law. 

 

➔ Sports: For the first time, the Belmont Stakes will serve as the first leg of the Triple Crown as the New York Racing Association announced Tuesday that it will run as scheduled on June 20, sans fans in attendance. Instead of the race’s trademark 1 ½ mile course, horses will race for 1 ⅛ miles — the first time the Belmont Stakes will be run at that length since 1894. The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were rescheduled for Sept. 5 and Oct. 3, respectively, due to the COVID-19 outbreak (The Associated Press).



THE CLOSER

And finally … necessity is indeed the mother of invention. An enterprising restaurant and watering hole with a large outdoor deck in Ocean City, Md., has a new approach to social distancing for the spring and summer, courtesy of a Baltimore company that created “bumper tables,” which are large inner tube tables on wheels. The result looks much like energetic adults wearing a cross between baby and senior walkers (The Associated Press).