The Hill’s Morning Report – Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday 110,514. Tuesday, 111,007. Wednesday, 112,006. Thursday, 112,924.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 2 million.
The nation’s leading economic stewards on Wednesday offered similarly somber warnings: Sectors of the U.S. economy and American workers are under seismic stress and are not out of economic danger as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s nudge to Congress during testimony on Wednesday was to legislate additional targeted spending — as quickly as possible. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell separately told reporters the nation’s central bank wants to lend more to keep businesses afloat and will not put away its “toolbox” anytime soon (The Hill).
“I do think the economy is going to rebound significantly, but there is still significant damage in parts of the economy,” Mnuchin (pictured above) said during a Senate hearing. “We’re going to use all of our fiscal tools to work with Congress” to “restore this economy to where it was.” (Bloomberg News).
The Hill: Fed predicts unemployment will fall to 9.3 percent from May’s reported 13.3 percent by end of 2020.
“The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement.
Powell signaled to policy makers and investors that the central bank intends to hold interest rates near zero for years (Forbes). Among the worries shared by the Fed chairman and Mnuchin are the considerable unknowns as states ease restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, only to see infections and hospitalizations rise again in some regions. Companies and individuals are struggling to rebound, despite lifelines thrown at them by Congress, the administration and the Fed.
The secretary is in the unusual position of lobbying lawmakers in his own party to embrace another stimulus measure and not wait until months have passed and the economic damage deepens. On Wednesday, he said the United States “definitely” needs a fourth round of fiscal stimulus to help those in travel, retail and leisure businesses and possibly to provide more direct cash for American families. Thus far, House and Senate Republicans are lukewarm about embracing another big spending bill in an election year.
Just since March, Congress and President Trump have enacted roughly $3 trillion in coronavirus relief programs and payouts (NPR). House Democrats have approved another $3.5 trillion, which Republicans say they oppose.
The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that the phased lifting of stay-at-home restrictions ordered by many governors is unlikely to be reversed even if infected people strain hospitals and pose risks.
The New York Times: As virus infections surge, countries end lockdowns.
The Hill: Public health officials and physicians want Americans to get influenza vaccinations before the fall. Easier said than done.
The Hill: Lawmakers are pressing the administration to ensure that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities don’t confiscate residents’ coronavirus stimulus checks.
The Hill: Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and currently a Republican primary candidate for governor, says he tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating with what he described on Twitter as “classic symptoms” of the disease.
> Entertainment, open and shut: AMC movie theaters announced this week that the company expects to reopen in July in the United States and abroad (Fox5). The country’s largest cineplex company reported $2 billion in losses in the most recent quarter (The New York Times). … The Iowa State Fair, for the first time since World War II, canceled the fun for 2020 because of concerns about COVID-19 and the challenges of social distancing (Des Moines Register).
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: The president overnight assailed “radical left” Democrats in charge of Seattle, including Gov. Jay Inslee (D), and said “domestic terrorists” took hold of the city (Fox News). Inslee fired back at Trump on Twitter: “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. “Stoop” tweeting.” Hundreds of protesters stormed Seattle’s City Hall on Tuesday night to demand Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s resignation, just days after seizing a six-block downtown zone that includes a shuttered police precinct. Demonstrators have been peaceful but are demanding the mayor step down if she refuses to defund the city’s police department.
The Hill: Seattle protesters take City Hall, declare police-free autonomous zone.
> Trump restarts rallies: The president announced on Wednesday that his campaign will start holding its trademark “Make American Great Again” rallies again next week, with the first since the coronavirus derailed in-person campaigning taking place in Tulsa, Okla., on June 19.
Trump also said that he is planning rallies in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona in the coming weeks. The campaign did not announce cities or dates for those rallies.
The event will be Trump’s first rally since March 2 in Charlotte, N.C. Trump, ever anxious to return to the campaign trail, will officially do so today as he travels to Dallas for a private fundraiser at the home of a supporter.
“We’re going to start our rallies back up now. We’ve had a tremendous run at rallies. I don’t think there has been an empty seat since we came down on the escalator,” Trump told reporters Wednesday, referencing the launch of his 2016 bid, adding that the Tulsa event would take place in a “beautiful new venue” and that the state has “done a great job” with COVID-19 (The Hill).
After seeing his political standing fall in recent weeks due to the pandemic and the social unrest following the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, the president is searching for a boost. He received the first one on Friday with a positive jobs report, but has struggled in the days since as he launched a conspiracy theory that a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, N.Y., was an antifa “provocateur” (The Hill).
The Tulsa rally will also take place on Juneteenth, the annual holiday of the U.S. ending slavery, and the 99th anniversary of major racial violence that struck the Oklahoma city (The New York Times).
Along with the return of rallies, the Republicans have tentatively settled on holding their annual nomination convention in Jacksonville, Fla., over the president’s concerns that he would not be able to have a packed confab in Charlotte.
For weeks, Trump and top GOP officials have been in a public war of words with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who said that the GOP would have to make plans to hold a slimmed-down gathering due to the public health risks posed by the COVID-19 outbreak (The Hill).
The Washington Post: GOP expects to move its convention to Jacksonville after dispute with North Carolina over pandemic safeguards.
Amie Parnes, The Hill: Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness.
C-SPAN flashback video clip: In May 1991, Biden introduced the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights Act on the Senate floor, which he said was “aimed at protecting the rights of law enforcement officers against the injustices that occur to them while they are attempting to help us.”
The Washington Post: Biden warns that Trump “is going to try to steal this election.”
> Georgia chaos: Voting reform advocates are warning that the issues seen with Georgia’s primary elections on Tuesday could be a preview of coming attractions in November if federal measures are not taken to expand mail-in voting and address other challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As The Hill’s Maggie Miller writes, Tuesday’s elections in Georgia saw voters in some areas of Atlanta waiting hours to cast their votes due to malfunctioning voting equipment and the consolidation of in-person polling places amid pandemic and confusion over voting absentee. The voting precincts hit hardest were those with heavily minority populations, reinforcing concern about voter disenfranchisement as protests continued across the country over Floyd’s killing.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Voting chaos spells trouble in November.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Jon Ossoff avoids runoff to win Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: George Floyd’s brother pleaded with lawmakers to enact racial justice reforms during an appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as Congress grapples with responses to his death and the protests that consumed the nation for weeks.
Philonise Floyd, appearing before the House Judiciary Committee (pictured below), lamented that he was powerless to save his older brother, who was killed last month in police custody when an officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In his testimony, he called on the panel to crack down on racial disparities in criminal justice.
“I couldn’t take care of George that day he was killed. But maybe by speaking with you today, I can make sure that his death would not be in vain,” he said, choking back tears at times. “George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the calls of our family, and the calls ringing out in the streets across the world.”
READ: Philonise Floyd’s statement to Congress.
The Hill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calls for removal of Confederate statues in Capitol complex.
Among those watching the hearing on Wednesday was Trump, who tweeted his dismay at Fox News’s decision to cut away from the House hearing before some testimony from witnesses. This afternoon, the president is slated to appear at a roundtable in a Dallas church to discuss race relations and the police (The Texas Tribune).
Philonise Floyd’s appearance on Wednesday came as lawmakers continue to weigh action they could take soon. In the House, Republicans delayed a roll out of police reform legislation this week, according to The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong, but they could unveil a package next week, although sources say timing remains fluid. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Republicans may want to see if they can attach GOP amendments to a Democratic police reform package that will be marked up in his Judiciary panel next week.
The House discussions came as Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) continued to draft legislation after being tapped on Tuesday to take the lead for Senate Republicans by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“The ball’s in the Senate’s court. That’s where the momentum is,” one senior GOP official told The Hill.
According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, qualified immunity is emerging as a key sticking point in the congressional debate over police reform as the legal doctrine, which can protect police officers from civil lawsuits, undergoes fresh national scrutiny.
Legislating a ban on legal immunity enjoyed by police is a non-starter among many Senate Republicans. When pressed about the chances that a qualified immunity overhaul ends up in a final measure, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, was skeptical.
“That may be, you know, a bridge too far for a lot of our members,” Thune said.
The Hill: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk.
ESPN: NASCAR bans Confederate flags at racetracks.
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Trump faces sinking polls but has enthusiasm and the economy on his side, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3cO0zq1
What Joe Biden must do now, by Allan Lichtman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ATzHrs
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet for a pro forma session at 9 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the legislative vehicle for the Great American Outdoors Act.
The president will travel to Dallas today for an evening campaign fundraiser in a private home and he will speak earlier in the afternoon to a roundtable audience (The Texas Tribune). The president will fly from Texas to his residence in Bedminster, N.J. tonight.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report weekly jobless claims from last week. Data since March showing weekly surges in filings for unemployment benefits has trended more positively since late May.
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➔ Media: The civil unrest wracking the country has stirred activism among members of the news media, with a new generation of reporters openly advocating for social changes. These journalists, who say objectivity is a fossil in an era in which journalism should report “truth” and call out lies, have forced some newsrooms to reexamine traditional news gathering traditions and journalism ethics (The Hill). … Fox News host Tucker Carlson is leaving the Daily Caller, a conservative online outlet he helped found a decade ago, to focus on his job at Fox News, he says (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ Walk the talk?: Companies around the country that seek to publicly ally themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement are being called to account because of their striking lack of racial diversity within the ranks of employees and executives. Example: Amazon is prominently displaying “Black lives matter” on its platforms. Yet, its 2019 workforce data shows about 8 percent of its managers in the United States are black, compared with nearly 60 percent who are white (The Associated Press).
➔ Courts: A former judge selected to survey the criminal case against Michael Flynn is accusing the Justice Department of exercising a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” to protect a Trump ally, distorting known facts and legal principles to shield Flynn from a jail sentence. The former federal judge, John Gleeson, on Wednesday skewered Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the case, describing it as an “irregular” effort that courts would “scoff” at were the subject anyone other than a Trump ally (Politico and The Hill).
➔ ⚽ Sports: With no fans in the stands, Major League Soccer will resume its season during the pandemic with a tournament in Florida beginning July 8 (The Associated Press).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by newsy numbers in headlines, we’re eager for some smart guesses about measurements of change reported since Sunday.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Who on this list celebrated a 61stt birthday this week?
- Vice President Pence
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
- The Rev. Al Sharpton
- Former first lady Michelle Obama
Extra ____ installed at the White House this week stretched more than 1 mile.
- Fiber optic cable
- Security fencing
- Lawn sprinklers
- Blackout draperies on the State Floor
Joe Biden was happy this week to secure more than 1,991 _____?
- Field volunteers for his campaign in Pennsylvania
- Pledged delegates
- Donors during a virtual fundraiser
Which country announced on Monday it had 0 active cases of COVID-19 after the last of its coronavirus patients recovered?
- North Korea
- New Zealand
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